Snapshot: Huey Whittaker

The first thing that comes to your mind when you meet Huey Whittaker is how big he is. <br><br> How can a man this big be a wide receiver? <br><br> At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Whittaker is as big as most linebackers. <br><br> Plaxico Burress is big. Whittaker is huge.

And it's that size, combined with his talent, that makes the rookie such an intriguing prospect for the Steelers, who signed him as a free agent immediately after the draft.

"I was upset I didn't get drafted, but this was the perfect situation for me," said Whittaker. "They didn't draft any receivers and I'm going to get a chance to prove I can play."

That's why Whittaker can't wait for training camp to start and everyone to put the pads on.

"That's my game," said Whittaker. "I play a physical style, beating DBs up at the line of scrimmage and going across the middle. That's what I love."

During his college career at South Florida - a program that is on the rise - Whittaker started 21 of 32 games, catching 117 catches for 1,447 yards and seven touchdowns. He doesn't possess great speed, but that size . it's truly exceptional.

Just ask Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads. Rhoads didn't recall Whittaker after being asked by a reporter about the former South Florida star, so Rhoads went back to the video of South Florida's stunning upset of the Panthers in 2001 at Heinz Field. Whittaker, then the Bulls' third receiver, grabbed five passes for 63 yards.

"He's a hoss, we couldn't cover him," said Rhoads.

Whittaker was heavily recruited by Florida, Auburn, Tulane and South Carolina as a senior in high school, but due to an error within the NCAA Clearinghouse, Whittaker opted to attend Hudson Valley Community College.

"The clearinghouse said I was ineligible after high school because of a missing test score," Whittaker says. "So I talked to my high school coach and it sounded like a good opportunity at Hudson Valley so I decided to go and play. After the first semester I found out that I was actually eligible to play at the Division I level."

Unfortunately for him, the schools that had been recruiting him had moved on and South Florida, which had only recently made the leap to Division I status, jumped on Whittaker.

"It was close to where I grew up and I saw a great opportunity to help build the program," Whittaker said.

He did that right away, catching a then-school record 52 passes in 2001 as a sophomore. A preseason knee injury that bothered him all season long limited him to half of that total as a junior, but rebounded to again lead the team in receptions with 39 catches as a senior.

Whittaker hopes he didn't turn off any fans in Pittsburgh with his game against the Panthers.

"Hopefully, they'll be cheering for me rather than against me like they did in that game," said Whittaker with a sly smile. "Hopefully, I'll give them something to cheer about."

He'll get an opportunity with the Steelers.

Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, Antwaan Randle El, Chris Doering and Lee Mays would seem to have established positions with the team, despite Burress' decision to skip the team's minicamp and offseason workout program.

But Burress is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and Mays will be a restricted free agent. That leaves veterans Freddie Milons and Brian Robinson along with Whittaker, Zamir Cobb and Glen Martinez possibly fighting for a roster spot and at the very least a spot on the practice squad.

The difference between the group may come down to their special teams play during the preseason.

"I can't wait to play special teams," said Whittaker. "As a receiver, you don't get to hit people that often. You hear about special teams being a big thing in making the team, and when you're not drafted, or even if you are drafted, special teams can be a big part of making the team."

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