Made The Switch

Jimbo Covert's college football career is one that Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt uses as an example for his linemen recruits.

That's not hard to believe, since Covert was a two-time All-America offensive tackle with the Panthers, as well as a Pro Bowl and Super Bowl-winning player with the Chicago Bears during a decade in the NFL. But that's not the main reason Wannstedt points to Covert's success as a guide.

When Covert was recruited by Pittsburgh from Freedom, Pa. High School for the Class of 1978, he primarily was looked at as a defensive tackle. Covert played one season before damaging a shoulder. After surgery, rehab and a redshirt year, Covert was switched to the offensive line, and that's when he excelled.

"Pitt had a lot of great offensive linemen in the 1970s and '80s, and Jimbo was right up there with the best,'' Wannstedt said. "We like to get a lot of athletic defensive linemen and move them to offense. It was a big success with Jimbo.

"Hopefully, it'll be successful for players on our current team like Jason Pinkston and John Malecki. I guess we'll find out this season, but recruiting athletic defensive linemen and then moving them to offense is something that I'll always try to do if we can do it. I'll never recruit more offensive linemen.''

Covert, who's son Scott has received a written scholarship offer from Pitt, was equally as effusive in praising Wannstedt's performance since he returned to his alma mater four years ago.

"I'm very happy with what he's doing,'' Covert said. "He's put together an excellent staff. He's a good football coach and an excellent recruiter. And that's where it all starts. He relates well with the younger kids, and that's really what it's all about. It all starts with recruiting and bringing in the players.

"Dave knows how to sell them, and he knows how to sell Pitt. He really cares about this program, and this is a big year for them. If they can win some more games, they'll really be on their way. They have the facilities and a strong foundation, so all that's left for them to do now is win some football games.''

When Covert played for the Panthers, they did a lot of winning. Under the tutelage of line coach Joe Moore, Covert and future Outland Trophy winner Mark May anchored Pitt's offensive line at right and left tackle, respectively. In his three seasons at right tackle, Covert reportedly allowed just three sacks, but none as a senior. That's amazing, because Pitt averaged 34 passes a game.

So, that's why the recent swoon has made it difficult for him, at times, but Covert said he still watches Pitt football every chance he gets. And he's especially excited about the future of the program.

"Dave's bringing in a lot of good players, especially linemen, and you can't have enough big guys,'' Covert said. "They're getting bigger up front on both sides, and their team speed is increasing.

"I believe they're going to be a good team for years to come, and I'll be thrilled if Scott is part of the program. Even if he isn't, I'll still be a big Pitt fan and come back to town as much as possible.''

Covert runs a company called the Institute for Transfusion Medicine in Green Tree, Pa., a Pittsburgh suburb. It's affiliated with Covert's Chicago-based company called Life Source. It's a parent company of the Central Blood Bank.

"I've been in health care for 17 years now,'' Covert said. "I'm in Pittsburgh a couple days a week, and I'm always happy to be back here.''

In 1983, Covert was selected sixth overall in the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. In nine seasons in Chicago, he twice made the Pro Bowl and was a starter on the Bears Super Bowl XX championship team.

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