Panther Profile: Jonathan Baldwin

With the conclusion of 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 Aliquippa wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin.

When the University of Pittsburgh dealt West Virginia a 13-9 defeat at the end of the 2007 regular college football season, one of the most notable post-game occurrences happened when highly recruited wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin told Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt "I knew we could do it."

Baldwin hadn't committed to Pitt at the time, so referring to the Panthers as "we" was quite a statement.

Or maybe not. For despite being recruited by everyone from Southern California to Michigan, Baldwin comes from a Pitt family and has endeared himself to many of the current members of the football team.

He is the son of Jeffery Baldwin, a Panthers defensive lineman during many of their glory days from 1981-84, and a cousin of Brandon Lindsey, currently a Pitt linebacker.

Family was a factor for Jonathan making his college decision, but perhaps not in a traditional way.

"I always watched Pitt games on TV . . . and he [dad] would talk about games and stuff but that didn't have much influence.

"Mom and Dad made all my games in high school. I wanted that to continue without them getting on planes."

So the Aliquippa product chose his hometown team, one he already had many ties with.

For starters, he already knew fellow Pitt recruits Ryan Turnley, a lineman from Hopewell, and Mike Shanahan, a fellow wide receiver from Norwin. Shanahan was a teammate of Baldwin on an AAU basketball team, the Pittsburgh Storm.

Turnley has always been an athletic rival of Baldwin since the two were in elementary school in Beaver County.

"He was always a good basketball player in the fourth through seventh grade," Baldwin said of Turnley. "I still remember the CCBC basketball tournament in sixth grade when we finally beat him. He was so good nobody could stop him."

With this basketball experience, Baldwin originally wanted to be a cager in college and even received a scholarship offer from Marquette.

"I was always going to go play basketball. It was my first choice. But my coach [Mike Zmijanac] told me ‘Jonathan, there are six people in New York City who can do everything you can in hoops, but 6-6 receivers who can run the 40 in 4.3 seconds are rare.'"

But by playing close to home, Baldwin has been able to bond with his future teammates. It's not uncommon to see him "chilling out" at the Oakland dorms with Pitt football players and his relationships with the current Panthers are such that he was able to give cancer stricken Freedom High School athlete Johnny Challis a football autographed by the team at a charity fundraising event last month.

"The players feel like brothers already," Baldwin said.

The thought occurs with Baldwin schmoozing with the veterans he is taking the natural steps to play as a freshman at Pitt.

Baldwin makes no proclamations on when he feels he should start or play, just that he is committed to setting and meeting goals in practice and games, such as "catch everything that comes my way," and "always give a full effort."

Still, he is a player who has been ranked as the second best to come out of Western Pennsylvania in the 2008 recruiting class, behind only Terrelle Pryor.

During the past two seasons Baldwin caught 62 passes for 1,083 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading the Quips to an undefeated regular season as a junior and a 7-2 mark in 2007 before falling in the playoffs to Pryor's Jeannette Jayhawks in both years.

Baldwin intends to major in communications with an eye on being a television anchor in the future.

Off the field, he likes to listen to slow R & B and rap, especially The Game, his favorite artist.

He also likes to watch VH1 reality shows like "Flavor of Love" and "Rock of Love."

Really, Jonathan? Rock of Love? Are you a closet classic metal fan and a fan of Butler native Bret Michaels?

"No, not really. I'd never heard of him before."

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