Ricketts Family Pitt Proud

When Tom Ricketts left Pitt for the NFL in 1989, many believed he would be the next great Panthers offensive lineman to forge a lengthy pro career.

That never materialized after three nondescript seasons with the Steelers, who drafted him with the 24th pick in the first round. They also took Georgia running back Tim Worley No. 7 overall. Ricketts spent one year with the Indianapolis Colts and another with the Kansas City Chiefs before retiring.

And nothing the 6-foot-5, nearly 300-pound Ricketts did in the NFL -- 15 starts in 53 games -- matched what he accomplished at the University of Pittsburgh.

"I went to Franklin Regional High School (Murrysville, Pa.), so it was a natural thing for me to play football at Pitt,'' Ricketts said. "Now, I have a son, Thomas, who has a chance to play college football, too. He's very young, a junior at North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.), so he still has a lot to learn about the game.

"But that's why we're taking him around to some camps to see what he can do and what he can learn. He likes the game, but we don't push him too much. I think he has some ability, but this will give him a chance to see what he can do against some top-notch athletes. So, we'll see what happens.''

The elder Ricketts wouldn't mind if his son, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound two-way lineman, develops into a player that would interest Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt. He already has some size, but it wouldn't hurt him to grow into his frame a bit more. He hasn't played much, either, but that should change this fall.

The Ricketts family is full of Panthers. Tom Ricketts married a former Pitt swimmer, Patty Albright. His mother is a Pitt grad. The legacy goes back to the younger Ricketts' great-grandfather.

"Maybe Thomas can continue that, and it's a perfect time to because Dave is doing everything he needs to do to get Pitt back on track to where it belongs,'' Ricketts said. "From my perspective, although I believe others feel this way, too, is that Pitt is headed in the right direction now.

"From the end of the season last year, and beating West Virginia, that got everybody feeling that things were headed in the right direction. And I think it's clear now, if it wasn't already, that Dave has this football program headed in the direction that we all want it to go. And I think it's happening. We go to all the games, but I've followed this team since I left.

"As a former player,'' Ricketts added, "I certainly want them to be successful on a more consistent basis, and I think they will be now. They've got the right players coming in here now, and a good coaching staff is in place. So, all that's left for Pitt to do is win some football games. That's not easy to do, but Pitt has been close. And I think they can get it done this year.''

With former Pitt stars like Ricketts remaining involved with the team, Wannstedt and the Panthers can continue to tap into their storied past.

"I had the opportunity to come down to speak to the team,'' Ricketts said. "Dave asked me to do that, but I didn't have an opportunity to see the practice facility before that. And I was really impressed. I've gone to Heinz Field before for the games, but I was never at the practice facility. It's really something.

"The indoor field, all the outdoor fields and turf, being next to the Steelers, I'm sure all that is great when they bring recruits in here. They really have to be impressed by that, because it's an amazing facility. I know I certainly was impressed. We still feel like we're part of the Pitt family, my wife and I.''

And if young Thomas Ricketts develops in the next year or so, he could be part of the Pitt family as well.

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