Four Pitt walk-ons receive scholarships
When he came to Pitt two years ago, Mark Giubilato had no scholarship, no position to call his own and no certain future.
But he also didn't care.
“My whole life I wanted to play BCS, Division I football,” he said, “and I knew if I didn't give it a try, I would be cheating myself and I would have second thoughts the rest of my life.”
So, he turned down full scholarships from Temple and Navy, and walked on at Pitt.
Stubborn diligence paid off this week for Giubilato when Pitt coach Paul Chryst rewarded him and teammates Kevin Barthelemy, Matt Yoklic and Chris Wuestner with scholarships, ending their walk-on careers.
“It's a culmination of hard work,” said Giubilato, who is Pitt's starting fullback. “But I realize it's not the end of the path or anything. It's just the beginning.”
When Giubilato received the good news, he made sure to thank close friend and Pitt tight end Hubie Graham and connected with former teammate Max Gruder, now with the Atlanta Falcons.
“Max had me lifting six days a week,” Giubilato said. “He wouldn't let me do anything else. Hubie and I became close and we pushed each other, too. They didn't let me cut any corners.”
When Chryst made the announcement in a team meeting, he was struck by the reaction from the rest of the players.
“It was genuine,” he said. “It was a pretty good moment. You love rewarding guys. That's real. Those are real dollars that are saved.”
The news was a relief for Yoklic and Barthelemy, redshirt juniors from Pine-Richland and Moon.
When Yoklic came to Pitt in 2009, former coach Dave Wannstedt's staff told him he would get a scholarship when he became the starter. The word never got to Todd Graham, however, who allowed Yoklic to remain a walk-on last season, even while he was finishing second in the Big East with an average of 41.2 yards on 62 punts.
“It took a little longer with all the coaching changes,” Yoklic said. “Kevin and I, we talk a lot and we just tried to stay positive and if we kept doing well, we'd get a break.”
Barthelemy said the scholarship takes away some pressure.
“You're always (thinking) in the back of your mind, I don't want to mess up because I might not get a scholarship. Now that you know you have it, you can go out there and play. It just gives you confidence.”
Wuestner has been one of the surprises in camp, getting increased practice time while several wide receivers recovered from injuries. He joined them this week, his left arm in a sling.
Those three players came to Pitt directly from high school, but Giubilato's journey was more circuitous.
After his junior season at St. Joseph's High School in Newtown Square, he committed to Temple to play quarterback, but he changed his mind and went to Milford (N.Y.) Academy to get additional experience for college.
He also had a feeling former Temple coach Al Golden wasn't planning to stay.
“I liked the school. I liked coach Golden,” Giubilato said. “But I kind of knew coach Golden wasn't going to be there.”
As it turned out, Giubilato went to Pitt from Milford and Golden ended up as head coach at Miami.
At Pitt, Giubilato, a 205-pound high school quarterback, moved from safety to linebacker to stand-up defensive end in two seasons.
“I was always a little too aggressive to play quarterback,” he said, now a 6-foot-2, 230-pound fullback. “I just drove my coaches crazy. Now, it's what they want me to do. It all kind of worked out in the end.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7997.