Where Are They Now?

With the announcement late last month that New York Mellon would add 135 jobs in Pittsburgh, it seemed like the right time to catch up with former Pitt quarterback Billy Daniels.

Daniels, the Panthers' starting signal-caller from 1973-74, has been employed by New York Mellon and its local predecessor for the past 24 years. He is a vice president in global liquidity, which, in his own words, means he "helps institutional investors invest their cash.''

And though he won't be directly influenced by his company's announcement, it relates well to Daniels' college football career in Pittsburgh.

As the quarterback, Daniels was the team leader handling the transition of not just a new coaching staff, but the influx of players who came from outside the region for the first time in Pitt football history when Johnny Majors replaced Carl DePasqua as the Panthers' head coach.

"It was a definite culture shock,'' Daniels recalled. "But it was a positive experience to meet those guys from another area.''

At the time of Daniels' recruitment from Montour High School in suburban Pittsburgh in 1970, playing at Pitt meant playing with other players from the region.

In fact, Daniels turned down offers to play for national powerhouses such as Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame and then-quarterback factory Purdue to stay home and suit up for the Panthers, who had not had a winning season in eight years before Daniels' arrival.

"Reynold Stoner, an All-State player from New Castle, told me during a recruiting visit if he was going to have a successful career after football he'd prefer to make contacts locally,'' Daniels said.

"That made sense to me ... at the time Pittsburgh was the third largest corporate headquarters in the country. Foge Fazio actually recruited me, and his sister was the guidance counselor at Montour. She said ‘What are you thinking? Your family is here.' ''

Receiving one of the then-25 scholarships DePasqua had to offer, Daniels came to Pitt at perhaps the nadir of its football existence.

While there may have been optimism concerning Pitt football upon his enrollment. The Panthers were coming off a 5-5 season, and DePasqua was a legendary figure in Pitt football history after starring in the late 1940s, but it soon bottomed out.

By Daniels' sophomore season the Panthers finished 1-10 and were averaging less than 22,000 fans a game at Pitt Stadium, their lowest total in 22 years.

"Once we started losing it spiraled,'' Daniels said. "We were every bit as competitive as we needed to be. We just always found a way to lose.''

But after Daniels' sophomore season, a "Major'' change occurred at Pitt.

"It was like night and day,'' Daniels said. "Carl took an understated, professional approach to coaching. Majors and his staff, some of his guys were lunatics.

"The guys were crazy, just hysterical. Defensive coaches would be in a pile after a play congratulating their players and getting right in our face. Everyone, quarterback or lineman, was treated the same. It was completely foreign to us.''

Perhaps Daniels' desire to stay with the program led by example. After all, he'd been told by DePasqua before the 1972 Pitt-Penn State game he'd be his starting quarterback. Now, he had to reclaim the position with coaches pushing the team harder than ever before, resulting in 17 players quitting the team and 76 more brought in by scholarship.

"They basically said 'Let's weed out the weak,' (and) Majors regularly admitted it was a more rigorous conditioning program than he'd ever been through,'' Daniels said. "On a daily basis we were pushed to the brink physically, but still attended labs and classes.''

Of course, the training facilities were much better as well.

"In my freshman and sophomore years we had metal lockers and a cement floor,'' Daniels said. "Our weight room was a universal gym with six or eight stations in the center of the locker room at Pitt Stadium. That was it. With Majors came a gold carpet, weight equipment and wooden lockers. Those were meaningful things.''

And, of course, the famous script "Pitt'' was added to the helmets.

"(Majors) redesigned the uniform,'' Daniels said. "That was a big thing to us, the offensive players especially.''

Even today at New York Mellon, Daniels says he relates the life lessons Majors taught him.

"I still quote many of his sayings at work,'' Daniels said. "Then again, who knows? If Carl had the luxury of bringing in 60 kids he might have turned it around.''

Immediate results came with the changes by Majors. Not only were players being brought in from around the country, but the 1973 season began with a regular-season game against a Southeastern Conference team for the first time in the program's history.

And Daniels, the new starting quarterback, scored Pitt's lone touchdown on a 17-yard run to allow the Panthers to tie Georgia, 7-7. The Bulldogs finished 7-4 in 1972 and won the Peach Bowl in '73.

Other key moments in Daniels career included:

Beating West Virginia, 35-7, in Morgantown Oct. 13, 1973. This was the springboard to a four-game winning streak that saw Pitt crack the Top 20 and finish with its first winning record since 1963.

Daniels and Pitt play quarterback Danny White and Arizona State in the Fiesta Bowl Dec. 21, 1973, Pitt's first bowl game in 17 years. ASU wins, 28-7.

A down moment for Daniels, as he throws three interceptions and completes only 2 of 12 passes Sept. 28, 1974. The eighth-ranked Panthers lose, 16-7, to eventual UPI National Champion Southern Cal at Pitt Stadium.

Perhaps Daniels' finest moment as he completed 9 of 16 passes for 121 yards while rushing for 165 more on 19 carries in a 21-13 victory Nov. 2, 1974 at Syracuse to restore Pitt's national ranking.

With Pitt 7-2 and ranked 17th, Daniels tears up his knee at fifth-ranked Notre Dame in a 14-10 loss Nov. 16, 1974 to end his playing career. Robert Medwid, a longtime friend of Daniels from McKees Rocks, would finish the season as Pitt's starting quarterback.

During his two seasons as starting quarterback of the Panthers, Daniels finished by completing 155 of 297 passes for 2,089 yards.

These days Daniels lives in Sewickley, Pa. with his wife of 29 years, Jean, and their Golden Retriever, Jack Daniels. And he feels more connected to Pitt football than he has in previous years since his old left tackle, Dave Wannstedt, began coaching the team.

"I like everything they're doing athletically,'' Daniels said.

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