Panther Profile: Cameron Saddler

Over the next few weeks as the Panthers continue spring practice, the Pantherdigest will be profiling the members of the class of 2008 that will land in Oakland this year. You will read several interesting stories about the future Panthers including Gateway's Cameron Saddler.

If you thought you were at wit's end when Pittsburgh freshman forward DeJuan Blair missed a pair of free throws during the final minute of regulation in the Panthers' 76-69 overtime victory against Louisville in the Big East Tournament a few week's ago, imagine how Blair feels.

Not so much because his misses led to Earl Clark's game-tying basket that put the quarterfinal basketball game into overtime, but because he's going to have to hear about it from his uncle, Pitt football commit Cameron Saddler of Gateway High School.

"I can't wait. I'm going to give him a call and get on his case about those misses," said Saddler, whose sister Shari is Blair's mother. "I'm a huge trash talker!"

Such an admission from an 18-year-old athlete leads one to ponder if Saddler, who rushed for more than 1,700 yards and an amazing 31 touchdowns for the Gators in 2007, might have a negative personality component.

But after a few minutes talking to Saddler, one realizes "negative personality" is not an accurate description of this outgoing young man.

He's happy with whatever music is being played, just so it is lively and positive.

He reads, with his favorite selections ranging from Debra Clayton's "Rap Superstar" to the book he is currently reading, Hank Aaron's "I Had a Hammer" autobiography with Lonnie Wheeler.

"I'm all about having good clean fun and making people happy," Saddler says.

And the trash talking?

"I'm big on sportsmanship, but it's always good to have a good time on the field and since they can't hear you in the stands, sometimes you can say some smart stuff."

For instance, when Saddler scored the game-tying touchdown with one second left in the 2007 WPIAL Class AAAA championship game against Central Catholic, he was more than happy to crow about it to the Vikings.

"I was kind of in shock but not at a loss for words," Saddler said. "It was [fellow Pitt commit Andrew] Taglianetti, I think. I went over and said to him ‘I hope you don't think I'll lose to YOU!'"

Taglianetti, a defensive back, had the last laugh when Tino Sunseri scored the game-winning touchdown to give Central Catholic a 35-34 victory, and the three players will all be going to Oakland this fall.

But Sunseri and Saddler have been friends for years, as reported by the Panther Digest earlier this week.

"It's a funny story. I actually knew Tino before he moved up here. We met at a combine and kind of talked and he said he was considering transferring up here.

"I wanted him to go to Gateway," Saddler continued. "I wanted him to know what we were doing here but I can't blame him for going to Central Catholic. They have a great tradition and he's the state champion."

The two even met the day following the game at Heinz Field when Saddler took his official visit to Pitt.

Rest assured, Saddler was not quite ready to hear Sunseri's response to his on-field gabbing.

"I told him ‘You better not say anything!' But at least it came against Tino who I had a lot of respect for."

The two have been going to Pitt basketball games this season along with Jonathan Baldwin of Aliquippa, Michael Shanahan of Norwin, and Saddler's Gateway teammates Corey Brown and Shayne Hale, the latter of whom is Saddler's cousin.

All but the highly regarded Brown, who is still a high school junior, have committed to Pitt.

"It's not a clique. It's a group getting to know each other. We all have a good time together," Saddler said.

Actually, rooting for Pitt is nothing knew to Saddler. Instead of watching the Steelers beat the St. Louis Rams back on December 20, Saddler watched his nephew score 15 points to lead the Panthers to a 65-64 men's basketball victory against Duke, and he cheered for Pitt and Florida State growing up.

His loyalties to the Panthers were enough for him to know the reputation of strength coach Buddy Morris, a reputation he is learning first hand now.

"I just got my freshman workout package today. I talked to Tino today on the phone and we talked about how sore and tired we are," Saddler said. "That is just Coach Buddy Morris doing what he does best!"

Saddler loves his role as a football star. He spoke of learning a sense of responsibility while relishing the fame he has during a recent appearance at a middle school.

"To see the effect I have to those kids, to be where I'm at; I love to share it but I'm still just a normal kid," Saddler said.

"I love to make people happy and am doing what God blessed me to do."

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