While the upcoming week for the Pitt Panthers football team is being described as a playoff game by many in their locker room, as a win at Miami will make the Panthers bowl eligible, last Saturday’s 30-7 win against Syracuse was something pretty special.
Special for the Pitt seniors, who ran through that tunnel at Heinz Field for the final time.
As a reporter I often like to find stories with real life ï¿½emotion attached to them and getting to watch seniors play their final home game is usually as good as it gets.
For these Pitt seniors, most of them won’t be playing in the NFL, so it really was a time of emotion as each senior was announced individually and got a hug from head coach Paul Chryst before taking the field with their families on the 50-yard line.
“It was awesome and I really appreciate the fans that were here,” said Pitt safety Ray Vinopal. “I transferred in from Michigan so I had to be accepted and everyone did a great job of that. I’m blessed to be here and it was awesome seeing my mom, dad and grandma out there today.”
Vinopal wasn’t the only Pitt senior feeling the emotions of senior day, but once all of that stopped and the ball was kicked off, the Panthers had to turn their attentions to winning a football game and breaking a three-game losing streak.
That’s something that is easier said than done, but linebacker Anthony Gonzalez and the rest of his Pitt teammates were up for the task.
“It was great,” said Gonzalez. “It was emotional at first, but we stayed focused out there and got the win.ï¿½It was exciting and emotions were high for us and our families. It was a really great feeling out there and the feelings got even better once we got the win.”
For these Pitt seniors, the results weren’t exactly there as this Pitt team didn’t reach their goals coming into the season of an ACC championship or anything close to that.
Now they find themselves fighting just to make a bowl game this coming Saturday.
But while the results weren’t there, their contributions were aplenty and that is something that Chryst won’t soon forget.
“We appreciate that the seniors, a small group, finished with a win here at Heinz Field,” added Chryst. “It was a big day for our seniors and their families. Our guys put a lot into it and it means a lot to their families. Every player has a different story and a different journey. It means a lot.”
Even the underclassmen realize the importance of senior day as they know that one day soon they will be running through that tunnel at Heinz Field for the final time, whether it be for a career in the NFL or simply to move on in life.
The one thing the Pitt underclassman can be happy about though is that they played a big role in helping this Pitt senior class win their final home game.
“It was real big,” said Pitt sophomore wide receiver Tyler Boyd. “Any senior around the country it’s a real big win if you win your last game. You never know what you’re going to do after the season, so it’s big knowing you left here and won your last game.”
Now these Pitt seniors have to put those emotions on the back burner and find a way to win their final regular season game and hopefully end up in a bowl game.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo | Keith Srakocic)