As Jeff "Pitt" Naple's wife, Bonnie, wrote early this morning on a GoFundMe account that friends and admirers have used to help the Naple family during Jeff's recent and for all of his way to advanced battle with pancreatic cancer.
Jeffrey Thomas Naple went to be with His God and Savior this morning at 3:45 a.m. His journey led him there through sickness and pain. I'm sad about that, it seems even the sky pouring rain this morning is screaming "this is heartbreaking." I am shedding tears, but know relief will come soon as I'm able to let go and acknowledge he now rests in the arms of Jesus, at peace and whole in a way we can only imagine. I find such peace in that thought, and I hope you do too.
I think we all take solace that our friend "Pitt" is now feeling no pain and is in that better place we all speak of and our faith leads us to believe in for those we love and some day a place where we will join them. We are unhappy that the next time we want to hear an unabashed summary of how the Cowboys played on Saturday or catch a little ornery quip that we won't be able to walk into the offices of the Oklahoma State video crew and hear it from Jeff.
Jeff Naple was a pioneer and I always consider young people that leave their homes and go away to school as a pioneer. It takes a lot to move somewhere where you know few people, experience a life and surroundings much different from those you have grown accustomed to. I went to Oklahoma State from Dallas, but Jeff came all the way from Pittsburgh, and thanks to a coaching staff at Oklahoma State at the time, some like Dave Wannstadt had a Pittsburgh background and some like Jimmy Johnson and Pat Jones had been there coaching at the University of Pittsburgh.
Naple was a student manager, but he was also a student of football. Someone that truly loved and respected the game. He soaked up the schemes, the techniques and the intricacies of football. He would use that love and knowledge to become one of the top individuals in the game at his craft.
Naple worked at Oklahoma State in video (at the beginning it was film) for Pat Jones, Bob Simmons and then later for Les Miles and Mike Gundy. He also worked in the NFL and as the business and football took major advances together it was Jeff Naple that was on the cutting edge. He was so astute at what was going on and what was possible and how it was executed from the camera to the computer that Naple was a consultant for the NFL and companies in the business. Owners of companies in the video business and video coordinators in the NFL and at other major universities often called to get his opinion or take on a situation.
I remember when Mike Gundy became head coach for his alma mater, he said he would not do the job unless he had "Pitt" by his side handling the job of video coordinator. He was that good at his job. He also would work with and train many young men working for him, some that would stay in the business while many went on to do other things after graduating from Oklahoma State but valued from soaking up Jeff's work ethic and enthusiasm for attention to detail and doing the job right.
He was a devoted husband and father. He was a good friend that would tell it like it was whether it was how the offensive or defensive line played the previous Saturday, which coach was getting the most out of his players, or whether you were saying the right things on radio or were just full of BS. "Pitt" called it as he saw it and you appreciated him for that.
More than anything I appreciate that Jeff never called attention to himself, and never needed a compliment, although his operation got many of them. They were one of the best and he was a multiple winner of the video coordinator of the year in the conference and was honored at all levels of his industry. Naple was that soldier that did whatever it took to assist and then would quietly relish in whatever victory it helped create. He was a master at finding video in situations where coaches would think none existed.
His quiet, not wanting to be the focus attitude continued in his recent battle with pancreatic cancer. My two major conversations with him face-to-face during his fight were conducted as if there wasn't any deadly disease that was threatening him. I knew he didn't want sympathy. He wanted a friend to talk football with maybe a little life mixed in. I was going to be sure to give him that, make him comfortable, because I would hope I would be as brave and as resolute as Jeff was in the face of that battle.
Make no mistake as he battled. Cancer had a major head start, but it wasn't going to win as "Pitt" was going to stay "Pitt" and he was going to fight hard. He did as doctors had him passing much earlier in the week, yet he kept fighting through another Saturday and another Cowboy win.
I would encourage everybody that knows Jeff and those that don't to ask, find out from people that knew him how special he was and how special his spirit was. If we had more Jeff "Pitt" Naple's in the world then more would get done and it would get done without the doers needing a lot of accolades tossed their way. He will be greatly missed by every current, past, and whether they know it or not future member of the Oklahoma State football family. Wherever orange and black and Cowboy football is celebrated his spirit will be there.
It takes a brave person to leave home and make new friends, find a purpose, inspire people to believe in you, and to maintain your dignity and be humble throughout life and especially in a battle for your life. That was Jeff "Pitt" Naple.