The Ties That Bind

The Pitt football team has built in-roads to several high schools in Pennsylvania, but few can match the talent level like Aliquippa in Beaver County.

That successful history continued this year, as five-star wideout Jonathan Baldwin was among the 19 recruits to sign a letter-of-intent Wednesday to play for Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt.

The Pitt football team has had a successful history with Aliquippa High School, and Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt is hopeful that Quips wideout Jonathan Baldwin continues that trend.

Baldwin continues the Aliquippa pipeline that extended last year when linebacker Brandon Lindsey signed and also includes former Pitt cornerbacks Josh Lay and Darrelle Revis, a first-round draft pick by the New York Jets last year; defensive lineman Sean Gilbert, who spent a decade in the NFL; as well as Pro and College Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka. Baldwin's father, Jeffrey, was a defensive lineman with the Panthers from 1981-84.

"Aliquippa, it's been a great tradition there for us for a long time, starting with (football operations director) Chris LaSala,'' Wannstedt said.

"So, when you treat players right and they come here and have success and get an opportunity to go to the NFL, there's an attitude where it can become contagious within the community and the school district. And we've been fortunate. Aliquippa has been one of those places for us.''

The same could be said for the Johnstown area, albeit at not quite the same level of success for the players. With the addition of Greater Johnstown High School's Antwuan Reed, who was recruited to play cornerback, and Bishop McCort tight end Mike Cruz, Pitt now has five players from there on its roster.

Reed joins former teammates Scott Corson, a redshirt sophomore-to-be offensive lineman, and senior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling. Pitt signed offensive lineman Wayne Jones from Cruz's McCort team last year.

"We went up there to recruit Scott Corson two years ago, and their coach told us about a sophomore who was as good an athlete as anybody he had coached,'' Wannstedt said. "That was Antwuan. ... All you have to do is look at his numbers. The guy is an outstanding football player.''

In all, this Pitt recruiting class was comprised of 10 players with various ties to the Panthers football program:

Middle linebacker Shayne Hale and wideout-kick returner Cameron Saddler from Gateway HS in Monroeville, Pa. join redshirt sophomore linebacker Dan Loheyde and redshirt freshman wideout Aaron Smith.

Center Robb Houser played at Butte College in California for Jeff Jordan, a former graduate assistant coach at Pitt in 1997.

Offensive tackle Lucas Nix from Thomas Jefferson HS in Jefferson Hills, Pa. joins his brother, redshirt sophomore linebacker Nate with the Panthers. Additionally, former Jaguars teammate Dom DeCicco is a sophomore safety at Pitt, and TJ coach Bill Cherpak was a standout offensive lineman for the Panthers from 1985-89.

Quarterback Tino Sunseri and cornerback Andrew Taglianetti from Central Catholic HS in Pittsburgh join two former Vikings at Pitt. Linebacker Shane Murray and tight end John Pelusi are redshirt juniors. And one of the most famous and successful Panthers, Pro and College Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino is a Central Catholic grad. Also, Sunseri's father, Sal, was a standout linebacker at Pitt from 1979-81 and an assistant coach from 1984-92. He currently is the defensive line coach with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL.

Last, but certainly not least, is offensive tackle Ryan Turnley from Hopewell, Pa. HS. Craig Bokor, a redshirt junior defensive lineman for the Panthers, also starred for the Vikings. But the most famous Hopewell grad who matriculated to Pitt was tailback Tony Dorsett, who led the Panthers to a national title and won the Heisman Trophy after his senior season in 1976.

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