Several LSU players that exhausted their eligibility after the 2008 campaign hope to get a call this weekend that they have dreamed of receiving since they were a kid.
For most college football players the ultimate goal is reaching the National Football League, and the most popular route to take is getting picked in the NFL draft.
The draft will kick off on Saturday, but for a few former Tigers the likelihood of getting selected on that first day is slim.
For some, including Kirston Pittman, just the opportunity to get paid to play the game they love is all they care about.
“I just want the chance,” Pittman said. “That’s all I’m worried about.”
There was a time when Pittman didn’t think he would get the opportunity to step between the lines and continue playing when his days at LSU were done.
After playing in 13 games as a true freshman and 12 the following year, Pittman’s career was in jeopardy. He suffered a foot injury that sidelined him during his junior campaign. As if that was not enough, the Garyville-native tore his Achilles tendon during an offseason workout less than a year later which put him on the shelf for another season.
Pittman returned for what appeared to be his senior year in 2007 and was a key ingredient to LSU's defense which helped the Tigers capture the 2007 BCS National Championship.
After mulling over his options which included taking his chances in the NFL or petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, Pittman opted for the latter and the NCAA granted him a medical redshirt.
With NFL scouts already questioning his durability, Pittman’s thought process of returning for another year was two-fold. In the spring of 2008 he was the only active player in college football to be on two BCS National Championship teams and he wanted a third ring. He also wanted to prove that he was not damaged goods due to the injuries.
Pittman, who recorded 35 tackles last season, proved that he was durable, but the Tigers were out of the national title picture before November rolled around and went on to finish with a disappointing 8-5 record.
Though his quest for a third ring went down in flames, Pittman has no regrets about the decision he made.
“I’m definitely grateful that I was granted the opportunity to come back and play another year because I saw that sometimes things will go your way and other times it won’t,” he said. “Going into last season and the kind of year we had at LSU I grew a lot and became more mature.
“I grew as a man and then losing some of our games was something I had never been part of. For me, it matured me as a man and matured me as a ball player. Now, I have higher expectations for myself.”
Those expectations include making an NFL roster even if it means learning how to play another position.
Pittman wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis so his only shot to impress the pro scouts aside from a personal workout was to strut his stuff at LSU's Pro Day in March.
With NFL personnel representing most of the teams in the league on hand at the LSU Indoor Practice Facility, Pittman put on a show. He measured out at 6-foot-2 ½, weighed in at 250 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds. Pittman also posted a 4.53 time in the shuttle, which was very impressive considering that Demetrius Byrd ran it in 4.52 seconds, and Pittman’s time of 7.43 seconds in the 3-Cone Drill was second only to Byrd’s time of 7.08 seconds.
Pittman may be a little undersized to play defensive end at the pro level like he did at LSU, but the scouts were intrigued with his ability to play linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
When all of the defensive linemen, including Pittman had finished the position drills at pro day, most headed for the showers. However, Pittman’s day was not yet completed.
The NFL coaches and scouts worked Pittman out at linebacker to see how he performed in pass coverage drills, and they also wanted to see how he played in space.
According to the feedback that he received following pro day, the limited time spent at linebacker could pay dividends when this weekend rolls around.
“A lot of teams want me to play outside linebacker and some teams want me to play inside linebacker,” Pittman said. “Working out at pro day was a big plus for me because it helped with the way people view me and my talent and my ability to play ball.”
Those teams include Cleveland and Chicago, who according to Pittman have contacted him the most the last couple of weeks, along with Carolina, Denver, New England and Tampa Bay.
The interest, particularly from the Browns and Bears, has given Pittman an optimistic outlook for this weekend.
“Some teams call and touch base with me pretty much every week so that’s one of the reasons I’ve been having a pretty good feeling about the situation,” he said. “I’m not stressing or worrying about anything right now.”
Surely when Saturday rolls around Pittman will be worrying about his future a little more as he will surround himself with family and friends for a draft day party at his parent’s home in Garyville. He said that he hasn’t thought about Sunday and what they will do if he’s still waiting.
One reason for that according to Pittman is that he has reason to feel optimistic.
“Teams tell me I’m on their board then they ask me if I’ve been working out because they want me to be ready to come in and play,” he said. “I don’t know what round or what projection that means, but I’ve been getting some great feedback from scouts and coaches.”