Gunn Shoots Down Competition

Adam Gunn already is looking toward his future away from football, but that doesn't mean he isn't excited about Pitt's upcoming season.

Gunn, a redshirt junior, played a role in putting together the Panthers football guide with the school's media relations staff, and now he's trying to play an even larger role for the football team this fall as the starting strong-side linebacker for Pittsburgh.

"This summer, it was a lot of fun working with E.J. (Borghetti) and the whole crew up there,'' Adam Gunn said. "I just wanted to get my mind off football this summer and focus on other things like my professional career. I'm open right now. I graduate in December, but I still have two more years of football. So, I'll keep my options open and take any opportunity I have.''

Gunn, who will earn a Communications degree in December and begin master's work in Public Administration in January, certainly has taken advantage of the opportunities his had at linebacker. Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said he is the team's most consistent at the position, along with middle linebacker Scott McKillop and weak-side backer Shane Murray.

It's no coincidence that the trio has been running with the first team for Pitt's linebacking corps with Gunn getting more starting reps than more-heralded sophomore Dorin Dickerson.

"I don't pay attention to all that,'' Gunn said. "I just have to focus on me and try to be a smart player out there. If I focus on other stuff, my mind gets out of it and I can't play as well as I need to. So, I just continue to focus and try to make myself better and try to let everything play off from there.

"Over the summer, I just tried to learn as much as I can, so I'm the smartest guy out there and I know exactly what's going on. While I might lack some of the athletic ability of the others, I try to make up for it with my knowledge of my game and try to continue to get better in that way.''

Gunn is also among Pitt's more versatile defensive players. When he arrived at Pitt with fellow Kiski Area, Pa. High School teammates Scott and Chris McKillop, who is the Panthers' starting defensive end, Gunn was a safety. He played both free and strong safety. And then moved up to weak-side linebacker. After earning primary reps on the strong side, he has practiced some in the middle to back up Scott McKillop.

"We've been playing together far beyond Kiski,'' Gunn said. "We go back to midgets, so we've been playing together for at least 12 years. So, being out there with them is great, and we know exactly what each other is going to do before we do it. So, it's great to be out there on the field with the McKillops, and I look forward to playing with them all year.''

Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads was Gunn's position coach when he played in the secondary, and he's taken over his training as the linebackers coach this year as well. So, he knows all about Gunn's career.

"Adam certainly has had a excellent camp,'' Rhoads said. "He has been very consistent, but not too flashy, and he's very coachable. He's always been a hard worker, and he has earned every bit of playing time that he gets this season.''

But it's that one aspect, that Dickerson makes more big plays, which could keep Gunn from the starting lineup. If Dickerson can become more consistent and accountable, like Gunn, he could open against Eastern Michigan Sept. 1. Gunn, who was a quarterback and safety in high school, never played linebacker before moving there in the spring. However, he knows what it takes to be successful at the position.

"You have to be a leader as a quarterback, and you can apply that to linebacker,'' Gunn said. "A linebacker leads out there, directing things up front as well as behind you. I dropped some weight, down to about 220, so I can play fast. And as long as I'm where I'm supposed to be, I can let the plays come as they come, so I'm very comfortable with the way I am right now.''

But does he occasionally look over his shoulder for Dickerson?

"Not really, because you just have to put your mind in the right place,'' Gunn said. "So, I just need to focus on myself and nobody else. And I have to put my mind in the right place and focus on the playbook and plays, and I can continue to make myself better.

"I came in here anticipating that I would play as a freshman, and I'm finally getting the opportunity to start here as a freshman. Now, after I've been here four years, I finally get the opportunity. So, I'm just trying to take full advantage of where I'm at right now.

"A lot of people don't realize that you need to know a lot before it happens out there,'' Gunn added, "and there's a lot of reads and keys going on. Playing linebacker relies a lot on the playbook, so I've tried to get to know it as thoroughly as possible. Hopefully, that will pay off.''

And the Pitt linebacking corps will reap the dividends.

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