Dennis Pitta already has plenty of impressive accolades built up in his football career. He was a two-time All-American at BYU, the Cougars’ leader in career receptions, the NCAA career leader for tight end receiving yards and a fourth round NFL Draft pick.
With a Ravens victory on Sunday, you can consider me convinced that Dennis Pitta is the greatest tight end at BYU of all time.
But what makes Pitta’s entire body of work more impressive than anyone else? Here’s a few telling criteria:
Record books and honors: In addition to his above-mentioned receiving records, Pitta is one of just three Cougar tight ends to twice earn All-America honors, along with Hudson and Smith. Pitta was a consensus All-American once and Hudson twice.
Clutch play: Brown has the most well-known catch for a tight end in BYU history with his game-winning grab in the 1980 Holiday Bowl. But Pitta made a key grab for the Cougars on a fourth-and-4 late in BYU’s 14-13 over No. 3 Oklahoma in 2009, after making two other catches earlier on the game-winning drive. And in five career NFL postseason games, Pitta has 17 receptions for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
Professional championships: Only five former Cougars have been a tight end on a Super Bowl-bound team and four of those — Lewis, Doug Jolley, Itula Mili and Gabe Reid — lost in the only NFL title-game opportunity of their careers. Todd Christensen is the lone former Cougar to win a Super Bowl while playing as a tight end — he won two titles with the Raiders — but he was a fullback during his days at BYU. With a Baltimore win, Pitta would become the first BYU athlete to play tight end in the college and pro ranks to earn a Super Bowl title.
Success story: Only one other former Cougar tight end, Lewis, could be considered to have a better story. Lewis walked on at BYU, where he shined from his freshman to senior seasons. He then had to walk-on again in the NFL, eventually landing for several years with the Eagles. He had two touchdown receptions for Philadelphia in the NFC championship game in 2005, but suffered a foot injury on the second score and couldn’t play in the Super Bowl.
A Super Bowl win is where Pitta can surpass Lewis. Pitta also came to BYU as a walk-on, where he developed into a consistent threat. He was drafted by the Ravens in 2010, just one round after Baltimore also picked another tight end, Oregon’s Ed Dickson. Pitta has worked hard and, after a first season in which he had just one catch for one yard, has steadily developed into a favorite target of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco.
Of course, Pitta could sweeten the deal by catching a touchdown pass this Sunday, but a Super Bowl ring would seal his legacy as the top tight end in Cougar history.