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  1. #1
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    Capizzi Realizes A Dream

    By Dale Grdnic
    Senior Writer
    Posted May 14, 2007

    PITTSBURGH -- Jason Capizzi wanted to get something straight: He never really wanted to leave the University of Pittsburgh football team, but he basically felt forced out by the Panthers coaching staff.

    Jason Capizzi was a big recruit for Pitt coach Walt Harris, literally (6-feet, 9 inches tall and 300-plus pounds) and figuratively (highly rated by several services), but after being cited for underage drinking he never returned from the coach's doghouse and eventually transferred to Division II Indiana (Pa.) University. At IUP, he became an All-American offensive tackle and was another one that got away for the Panthers.

    The Pine-Richland High School grad wasn't selected during the NFL's annual draft April 28-29, but he signed with his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent shortly thereafter and worked out with them during a mandatory minicamp Friday through Sunday in an attempt to earn a spot on the training camp roster this July.

    "I took the road less traveled, and a lot of people doubted me whenever I left Pitt,'' Capizzi said. "They said I blew my opportunity. I blew my shot, but I had it in the back of my head that I would prove everyone wrong and fulfill my dream. And here I am, playing for my hometown team, playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers with some guys that I've idolized.

    "Oh, yeah, I was a huge Steelers fan growing up. My father always had season tickets. He's had them since 1970, and I've been going to Steelers games my whole life, way back at Three Rivers Stadium. So, to be here with these guys and hopefully prove that I can help the team win is amazing. Like I've said, I'm fulfilling a dream right now, and I don't want it to end.''

    In retrospect, Capizzi's time at Pitt must have seemed like a nightmare. Sure, it was precipitated by his own actions, but he strongly believed that the punishment did not fit the crime. Capizzi started out as a grayshirt, enrolling in January, 2002, and practiced with the team during the ensuing spring drills. He took a redshirt that fall and expected to make an impact the following season (2003) with four years of eligibility remaining.

    That's when he was caught drinking on the South Side and never made the impact he had hoped for on the football field, but his off-field actions were everlasting. He eventually transferred to IUP and was a three-year starter from 2004-06 with selection as a Division II All-American his career capper.

    "I had a lapse in judgment,'' Capizzi said. "I got in a little bit of trouble and got put in the doghouse, and I felt like I was never going to get a fair shot. But I felt like my punishment was a little bit of a double standard, compared to some other people's punishment.

    "I felt like I was never going to get a good shot at playing time at Pitt, and you've got to play college football to get into the NFL, which was my ultimate dream, so I decided to get out of there at that time. I still had three years of eligibility remaining, and I transferred to IUP.''

    Capizzi played in 30 games at IUP and started each one. While he was committed to Pitt as a fresh-faced recruit, Capizzi quickly changed allegiances when he transferred.

    "It was a great experience, and I was able to play well enough to get some interest from the NFL,'' Capizzi said. "After Pitt, I had to play down so I didn't lose any eligibility. I was going to go to Richmond or Delaware, both I-AA schools, and maybe James Madison. But I've been playing ball in Western Pennsylvania all of my life, so I picked IUP.''

    As far as the NFL goes, the Steelers called in the fifth round and said they weren't sure what they were going to do. Then, they called back in the sixth to tell him that they weren't going to draft an offensive tackle. But they wanted Capizzi to be their first free-agent signing after the draft. Capizzi wasn't sure what to do.

    The Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles all called Capizzi to inquire about his plans. Cincy had the third-to-last pick, No. 253 and believed the Bengals would pick him. If they did, Capizzi decided he would sign with them. If not, no matter what happened with the final two NFL draft picks, Capizzi would sign with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent.

    Capizzi and some friends watched the entire second day of the draft in his Pine Township, Pa. home, from 11 a.m. until the final pick, with his buddies secretly hoping that he wouldn't get taken at the end so he could go to the Steelers. Capizzi was a little disappointed that he wasn't selected, but was thrilled to eventually sign with his hometown Steelers.

    "We watched and watched that whole day,'' Capizzi said. "After a while, I didn't think my name would be called. We were all waiting for the phone to ring, but we weren't sure what would happen. When the Bengals picked that Notre Dame guy, my friends were pretty happy. And, I guess, I was happy, too. I really love the Steelers.

    "And I thought they liked me at IUP's Pro Day. Now, I have a great opportunity with them. My agent believed that was the best thing for me, too. He told me that in the seventh round. Sure, I wanted to get drafted, but I think this worked out pretty well for me, especially when you consider where I was all those years ago at Pitt.''
    I am really pulling for this guy to make the team. I believe with some coaching, a guy with his size (and agility - he also played a lot of basketball where footwork is key) can be dominating on the field. Can you have a better project LT than one who grew up a huge Steeler fan and wants to play for the love of the game? This guy has bigger hands than any other O-lineman who worked out at the combine (he wasn't invited). He is a lean 330 lbs and by the time he grows into that frame he may easily top 350. It wouldn't take long (considering his dad has been a season ticket holder since 1970) for him to gain his own cheering section at Heinz Field. Could it be the Capizzi Crazies? Jason and the Argonuts?

    Last edited by BlackGold4vr; 05-15-2007 at 02:55 PM.
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    2nd String Blitzburghpete's Avatar
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    Yeah i'm pulling for this guy to make the team too.
    Kinda like the parker story and i hope this guy can be as good a pro as Parker is.

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    SA's #1 Pirates Fan Tetris Champion Black@Gold Forever32's Avatar
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    I hope he makes it to and it would be cool if he could turn out to be our future LT down the road. He has the size thats for sure. I also think it was lame that he was punished like that for under aged drinking. Most of us drank before the legal age.lol

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    i dont see it happening, a guy that big just doenst go undrafted for no reason

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    2nd String okiesteeler's Avatar
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    You never know though, people could say the same thing about a running back with Parkers speed. But look at him now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by K Train View Post
    i dont see it happening, a guy that big just doenst go undrafted for no reason
    And a guy as fast as Willie shouldn't go undrafted either. He played in division II where it's a little harder to be recognized because your competition isn't as good either. So even if you are dominating your opposition scouts will still wonder if you could do the same thing to div I opponents. This guy was good enough in division II that he had 7 or 8 teams looking at him. Of course it's not a lock that he makes it, but I wouldn't count him out just because of his division II background. He's going to be practicing with everybody else and showing the coaches what he's got. If he beats out some of the competition than I guess he is good enough to get a spot on our roster. Nobody should be given a roster spot based soley on what college football program they came from.
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    Guys with troubled pasts often don't get drafted because no matter how good they are teams are shying away from now more than ever because they don't want the hassle,we all know that. If this kid can stay straight, work hard and do his best Im all for giving him a second chance and letting him work with the PS if nothing else and see how he develops.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TOP GUN View Post
    Guys with troubled pasts often don't get drafted because no matter how good they are teams are shying away from now more than ever because they don't want the hassle,we all know that. If this kid can stay straight, work hard and do his best Im all for giving him a second chance and letting him work with the PS if nothing else and see how he develops.
    If underage drinking is now considered a checkered past than God help us. Who amongst us who did not partake before his or her 21st birthday can cast the first stone. IMO this should not be looked at in the same light as Jarvis Moss popping on a **** test for ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES. Alcohol is not an illegal substance. Who was the CB that was kicked out of USC for a rape charge and still got drafted on day 1? His not getting drafted has everything to do with where he played his football and not his underage drinking incident. The coach kicking him off the team at Pitt for an underage drinking incident was a little severe if you asked me.
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    SA's #1 Pirates Fan Tetris Champion Black@Gold Forever32's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackGold4vr View Post
    If underage drinking is now considered a checkered past than God help us. Who amongst us who did not partake before his or her 21st birthday can cast the first stone. IMO this should not be looked at in the same light as Jarvis Moss popping on a **** test for ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES. Alcohol is not an illegal substance. Who was the CB that was kicked out of USC for a rape charge and still got drafted on day 1? His not getting drafted has everything to do with where he played his football and not his underage drinking incident. The coach kicking him off the team at Pitt for an underage drinking incident was a little severe if you asked me.
    I think you're thinking of Eric Wright and he was drafted by the Browns in the 2nd round.

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    K Train's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackGold4vr View Post
    And a guy as fast as Willie shouldn't go undrafted either. He played in division II where it's a little harder to be recognized because your competition isn't as good either. So even if you are dominating your opposition scouts will still wonder if you could do the same thing to div I opponents. This guy was good enough in division II that he had 7 or 8 teams looking at him. Of course it's not a lock that he makes it, but I wouldn't count him out just because of his division II background. He's going to be practicing with everybody else and showing the coaches what he's got. If he beats out some of the competition than I guess he is good enough to get a spot on our roster. Nobody should be given a roster spot based soley on what college football program they came from.
    im not at all saying that he wont make it because he played for a scrub college team, he was a high recruit by pitt....ok i understand that but scouts wouldve been all over him if he was something special, im sure they knew he was recruited by pitt. Im more along the lines of saying that he must play with heavy feet or isnt strong enough or gets pushed around and beat alot because he was "looked" at by several team but not higher than a possible 7th round pick. I hope he turns out to be a beast just dont hold your breath on it.

    Also we cant compare every undrafted FA to willie, willie played for a decent school, was hated by the coach and never played....not to mention willie kinda sucked right out of college , he developed into a star player and i hope capizzi can do the same....willie was kinda mentored by one of the best though, i dont think willie would be much of anything without jerome being a good sport and helping him along the way.

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