Past, Present And Future

While watching a two-minute video clip interspersed with highlights from Pitt legend Tony Dorsett's spectacular career and freshman sensation LeSean McCoy's terrific 2007 season, it's easy to make a comparison.

In fact, Dorsett, who returned to Pittsburgh for the annual Dapper Dan dinner Tuesday night, presented a commemorative football to McCoy earlier in the day to note his breaking the freshman rushing record in the Big East Conference and the freshman scoring mark with the Panthers. Dorsett was quick to list the similarities between the two when McCoy hesitated to do so.

"I've watched him play, and since I left here we've had a lot of backs that have come here,'' Dorsett said. "People have said that this kid reminds me ... of Tony Dorsett or that guy reminds me of Tony Dorsett, but (McCoy) is the first guy that I've seen that reminds me of Tony Dorsett.''

Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, who was the Panthers quarterback in 1976 when Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy and helped lead the team to the national championship, offered more insight.

"They're similar from the standpoint that they're both very exciting with the ball in their hands,'' Cavanaugh said. "They both have great vision, and they both have great explosiveness. And I think from that standpoint, every time the ball's handed to them, it's going to get people's attention.

"There's some guys, when they get the ball in their hands, everybody kind of holds their breath and wonders if this is the play that they're going to go all the way. And they both have that quality. They have the ability, every time they touch the football, to go the distance.''

Cavanaugh added that one difference is that McCoy is a little more extroverted, while Dorsett was more introverted as a freshman at Pitt.

"But Tony came out of that shell as each year progressed, and he kept setting more records and getting more national recognition, winning a Heisman and winning a national championship,'' Cavanaugh said. "So, he learned how to be a little more outgoing and how to talk to people, and I think LeSean has learned that at a younger age.''

McCoy wasn't that way during the press conference, though. He clearly was a little nervous, certainly was humble and always referred to his presenter as Mr. Dorsett.

"For him to say that we're kind of similar, that really means a lot,'' McCoy said. "When he was here, Pitt was able to win a lot of games and eventually a national championship, and that's my ultimate goal.

"So, we just have to continue to do what we're doing with recruiting, and hopefully it'll all come together for us. I have a pretty good supporting cast around me, and we're working very hard right now to get to that point.''

McCoy also acknowledged that he would like to end his career like Dorsett.

"Any player in college football, probably their biggest goal is to win a national championship and lead your team to winning it,'' McCoy said. "With all the great things that (Dorsett) accomplished, I'm sure the biggest thing was winning a national championship in his last year. So, that's always a big thing to look forward to.''

Another clear difference between the two are McCoy's numbers, while stellar for a freshman, are his only claim to fame in college. Sure, 1,328 rushing yards, 4.8 per carry and 14 rushing touchdowns gained McCoy freshman All-America status. But Dorsett was successful four years, and along with winning the Heisman and a national title he left Pitt with the NCAA rushing record.

"He's got to pass the test of time,'' Dorsett said. "We all know he did some big things last year. ... I know it's not going to be a fly-by-night type of situation with him. Barring injuries, you've got to stay focused and do the little things.

"(They) make the big things happen. As long as he keeps honing his craft, I think he's going to be a force to be reckoned with and will bring a lot of attention back to Pitt. (But) he has to prove himself again this year.''

Cavanaugh didn't expect that to be a problem, but he agreed with Dorsett.

"I would expect him to pick up where he left off, but that certainly has yet to be proven,'' Cavanaugh said. "Tony addressed that. We all expect big things from this young man, but he's going to have to go out and do it. But it's not just him.

"He complimented his coaches and his teammates, and that's a smart thing to do, because there's a lot of people involved in his success. But we certainly expect him to pick up right where he left off, with more help this year.''

Dorsett predicted only good things to come for McCoy and the Panthers.

"If you stay here for four years, which we all hope that you do, you have a damn good chance to do it,'' Dorsett said after McCoy questioned whether or not the Hall of Famer's records could be broken. "I've had a chance to talk to this young man for a while before, and ... he seems to be on the right track.

"He understands that at any given time, this all can be taken away from him. ... He broke some records that stood for a long time. And I'm hoping that he's able to break quite a few more. And if he's doing that, then we know Pitt is back to prominence and doing some wonderful things back on the national scene.''

And that's what most Pitt followers expect from McCoy and the Panthers.

"The potential is there,'' Dorsett said. "The players have to be put in a position to exploit their own skills, but there's work that still needs to be done. The players have to go out and have the determination to be one of the better teams in the Big East and on the national scene as a whole.

"And when you add to that the players that are being brought in, obviously we're expecting some good things to happen. As an alumnus here, I'm kind of tired of seeing Pitt being down, but we're hoping for better things ahead. And I'm sure Dave Wannstedt and his staff are looking for the same thing.''

And that's all any Pitt fan could ask.

Panther Digest Top Stories