Lou Slaby worked for Pitt and Pitt worked for him

Forty years after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, former Panther Lou Slaby is still glad he picked Pitt. <br><br> A three-year letterman at Pitt from 1960-62, Slaby was a fullback-linebacker during the days of one-platoon football.

"There were serveral reasons why I chose Pitt," said Lou Slaby. "First, Pitt had a good academic rating. Second, was the proximity to my hometown of Salem, Ohio. I wanted to go to a school at which my parents could come and watch me play. Another factor was that Pitt played a national schedule. They played all over the country."

Slaby was familiar with the city of Pittsburgh, as his mother grew up in Homestead, where her father worked in the mills.

"When my dad immigrated to this country from what is now Slovakia, he settled in Pittsburgh and worked in some of the mills," Slaby said. "Eventually, my folks moved to Salem."

"My sophomore year was our best team. That was Mike Ditka's senior year," Slaby recalled. "We were 4-3-3. Two of our losses were at UCLA and at Oklahoma by just one point each time. We tied Michigan State, TCU and Army. If we had scored seven more points in just the right spots, we could have gone 9-1."

The Panthers were 3-7 and 5-5 during Slaby's final two seasons at Pitt.

"Marty Schottenheimer, Paul Martha, Fred Cox, and Ed Sharockman are but just a few of the talented players we had at Pitt," said Slaby. "Fred, who was a running back for us, kicked for about 14 years for the Minnesota Vikings. Sharockman played quarterback and defensive back at Pitt. He then played about 10 years with the Vikings."

The New York Giants selected Slaby in the fifth round of the 1963 college draft. He was also tabbed by the AFL's Denver Broncos with their fourth round pick.

"The American Football League was just a start-up league in those days, while the NFL was the established league. I wanted to find out if I could play in the National Football League," revealed Slaby. "When I sat down and thought about it, I realized that I had to give the NFL a shot."

Slaby's shot at the NFL was put on hold when he injured his foot just before the start of the 1963 season.

"They put me on injured reserve, which meant that I couldn't play in any of the games that season. After my foot healed, I was allowed to practice with the Giants," Slaby said.

"I learned a lot by watching how those guys, who lost in the championship game to the Chicago Bears, went about practicing and getting ready for the games."

"Those guys" included Hall of Famers Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford, Andy Robustelli, and Sam Huff. When Huff was traded to Washington after the season, Slaby stepped into Huff's spot at middle linebacker. After not playing at all the year before, Slaby made up for it as he was on the field for every Giants' defensive play in 1964. For his efforts, he was selected to the NFL's All-Rookie Team.

Slaby's football career took a turn for the worst when he severely injured his knee at Pitt Stadium against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1965.

"That injury basically ended my career," said Slaby. "We didn't have the quality medical care like they have today."

After playing for the Detroit Lions in 1966, Slaby decided to retire and enter the business world. Utilizing his Pitt engineering degree, Slaby eventually founded Slaby Engineering in Morris Plains, N.J., which is a consulting firm dealing primarily in civil and municipal engineering, as well as getting more and more involved in environmental engineering.

As he thought back to his Pitt days, Slaby recalled, "Not getting a whole lot of sleep. between football and engineering classes, there wasn't a whole lot of free time. It was stressful, trying to balance everything. However, looking back, I definitely enjoyed my years at Pitt and I'm glad I went there."

Chuck Greenwood

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