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Pitt linebacker Trebitz will make 1st career start

| Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, 8:17 p.m.
Injuries moved Pitt linebacker Joe Trebitz up the depth chart, and he will make his first career start Saturday at Notre Dame. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Pitt linebacker Joe Trebitz (53) makes a tackle on Temple's Jamie Gilmore at Heinz Field Oct. 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

His appearances have been largely limited to special teams.

His sore hamstring has healed, but he still wears a steel brace on his arm to keep a dislocated elbow in place.

Only the most knowledgeable Pitt fans know his name.

On the surface, senior linebacker Joe Trebitz hasn't had the most memorable experience at Pitt.

But he is standing tall this week, preparing for his first start in five years Saturday at legendary Notre Dame Stadium against the fourth-ranked Irish.

“I have waited my whole life for this,” he said. “I couldn't be more excited. It's a dream come true, kind of like a storybook.”

Trebitz is Pitt's third choice at middle linebacker after Shane Gordon suffered a high-ankle sprain and his replacement, Dan Mason, lacerated his liver while making a tackle Saturday against Temple.

Although he has only 17 tackles in his college career, Trebitz never became discouraged, earning his degree in business marketing, graduating and now working toward his MBA.

“That's when you have to dig deep,” Trebitz said of spending most of his career as a backup. “You know you love the game and you know you love the university and your teammates. That's what you do it for — your teammates and yourself.”

Trebitz, a two-time member of the Big East All-Academic team, caught former coach Dave Wannstedt's eye while starting every game for four years at West Boca Raton (Fla.) High School.

“Wannstedt recruited me,” he said. “He was the Dolphins' head coach and they were my favorite team, and I thought it would be pretty cool to play under him in his NFL style.”

Trebitz visited, enjoyed his stay in a new city and committed two weeks before signing day in 2008. When assistant coaches Charlie Partridge and Paul Rhoads, who had been recruiting him, left for other jobs, Trebitz never flinched.

He had found a home.

Now, he's one of the seniors trying to keep the team together through a second coaching change in two years and an inconsistent start to the season.

He said his story — and that of linebacker Manny Williams, another fifth-year senior who was playing for the first time before a knee injury ended his season — could be inspirational to others.

“Our story is one younger guys who are kind of going through a hard time and not getting a lot of playing time can look up to,” Trebitz said. “You have to keep believing in yourself and keep working at it. Eventually, you will play if you stay.”

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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