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Football continues for Pitt post-graduate players

| Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Pitt tight end Hubie Graham has battled shoulder and ankle injuries for much of this season. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

Chris Jacobson has no more knees to give.

First the right knee, then the left, have been damaged during his collegiate career. But he'll play on Pitt's offensive line this season — his sixth at the university — after graduating with a degree in administrative justice while working on a minor in legal studies.

Jacobson, a graduate of Keystone Oaks High School, is one of 10 Pitt seniors who earned their degrees with athletic eligibility remaining. Each will work toward a graduate degree while taking at least two courses this fall.

Without the second injury, suffered in the third week of last season and repaired surgically nine days later, Jacobson never would have attempted to earn the additional degree.

“I would have gone into real life,” he said. “I got hurt and said, ‘OK, now what do I do?' So, I took another degree.”

Likewise, Pitt senior safety Andrew Taglianetti isn't slowing down after graduating this spring with a degree in business. He celebrated by going on a mercy mission with other Pitt student-athletes to earthquake-torn Haiti. Upon his return, he immediately started pursuing his MBA.

“The classload doesn't really diminish,” he said. “It might, actually, get harder.”

That's OK, because Taglianetti, a Central Catholic graduate, likes competing in the classroom as much as he does on the football field.

“I graduated with a 3.1,” he said. “Balancing a Division I sport with a business degree, I'll take it. There is no correlation between GPA and intelligence.

“I could have went and got a 4.0. There are kids who have a 4.0, but I know I can match up with them. When the hiring process comes down, someone might have better grades than me, but I'll throw myself up against anyone.

“I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else, but it's kind of fun to push yourself to be better than the best.”

Taglianetti, who has interned with the Penguins and a commercial real estate company the past two summers, isn't sure where his degree will lead. He knows this much, though:

“I want to run a company someday, be in charge,” he said. “I want to be the boss.”

After his playing days, Jacobson will seek a career in law enforcement, but he would prefer something beyond riding in a patrol car. He had his fill of that two years ago while interning with the Dormont police.

Riding shotgun with Sgt. Jim Burke, Jacobson spotted then-Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt innocently driving his car along Route 19.

“Should we pull him over?” Burke said.

“No, no, please don't,” Jacobson said.

Burke had none of it. “We'll get him,” he said.

“Next thing you know, lights,” Jacobson said.

Burke pulled over the car and a nervous Wannstedt got out.

“Sir,” Burke said, “please, park your car up there and get out of the vehicle.”

“Coach Wannstedt was freaking out,” Jacobson said. “He was scared.”

Finally, Jacobson stepped out of the police car, and his cover was blown.

“(Wannstedt) throws his hands in the air, and we all had a good laugh,” Jacobson said.

The next day, Wannstedt struck back, relating the story to former Pitt strength coach Buddy Morris.

“You pulled over the head coach?” Morris said to Jacobson. “50 up-downs.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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