Star DE Romeus focused on Pitt, not NFL
Greg Romeus is adjusting to his turn in the spotlight, as Pitt's soft-spoken star has developed into one of the Big East's premier players and most sought-after interviews at its media day in Newport, R.I.
The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Romeus has developed from a little-known recruit to a second-team All-Big East defensive end and All-America candidate. Romeus remains uncomfortable with the latter, considering he didn't play organized football until his senior year at Coral Glades (Fla.) High.
"I don't really pay too much attention to that," said Romeus, who has gained almost 50 pounds since arriving at Pitt in 2006. "I know there's so much that I need to learn. I'm nowhere near that status. If you would have asked me what I'd look like in five years, I could have never imagined this."
Romeus captured the attention of NFL scouts with 15.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks last season — his first as a starter — including two sacks for minus-20 yards in the Sun Bowl to earn Most Valuable Lineman honors. College Football News called him one of "120 players you need to know" and NFLDraftScout.com ranks him third out of 166 defensive end prospects.
Despite mock drafts that project the redshirt junior as a potential first-round pick, Romeus said he is doing his best to remain grounded and ignore talk of entering the NFL Draft next spring with one year of eligibility remaining.
"I still have two years left. I play for Pitt. I'm not worried about that stuff. If I'm blessed, that stuff will come later," Romeus said. "That's not a distraction for me. I know where I started. Three years ago, I wasn't a big-name player. I was inexperienced. I'll always stay humble about that fact. I can't worry about the future. I have to stay with the present."
Add the syrup
When Pitt senior Nate Byham recounts the most memorable plays of his college career, the first-team All-Big East tight end counts among his favorites the pancake block against West Virginia last season to help spring LeSean McCoy's winning touchdown run.
That shows the transformation the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Byham has undergone since arriving as an U.S. Army All-American from Franklin High School, where he was known more as a receiving threat. Like Romeus, Byham has added nearly 50 pounds to his frame and channeled a nasty streak to help become a blocker who can flatten defenders.
Byham made it clear that he doesn't "mind doing the dirty work."
"I think I've always thought of myself as a well-rounded tight end," said Byham, who has 37 career receptions for 504 yards and three touchdowns. "After high school, I had to prove myself as a blocker because many people thought of me as a receiver. In my mind, I was thinking, 'Hey, I can block, too, and I want to prove this to you.' My physical attributes changed and, as I became bulkier and in our style of offense, I became a better blocker. Now, as people look at me as more of a blocking tight end, I want to show them that I can catch the ball, too. That's how I got my scholarship. That's how I earned money to pay for my education."
Follow the leader
With the graduation of four-year starter C.J. Davis, senior right guard John Malecki is ready to assume a leadership role on the offensive line. And he already has taken to teaching two disciples.
"I take a lot of pride in coach picking me to come to events like this, and I definitely want to help the young guys out with whatever they need from me," Malecki said. "C.J. was a great leader and role model. He pretty much taught me how to play offense. Hopefully, I can help somebody else out."
Malecki has taken under his wing redshirt sophomore left guard Chris Jacobson and sophomore right tackle Lucas Nix, a pair of U.S. Army All-Americans from Keystone Oaks and Thomas Jefferson, respectively.
"Lumpy has a lot of potential. He's definitely going to be a great player in the future for us. He's strong, fast and he's picking up the game a lot quicker than he was in the past," Malecki said of Jacobson, who will compete with senior Joe Thomas for a starting job. "Lucas is the same way. He's taking steps forward every single day. I think they're both going to do real well for us this season, and people are going to see they are the guys they were hyped up to be coming out of high school."
"We don't want to do anything that would lessen the league or take a step backwards but, from a scheduling standpoint, it's a challenge right now. You get a ninth team in there and we're scheduling four games. Scheduling five games every year, I wouldn't want to be an athletic director in this conference. I'm all for it. I can't give you a name, but I'm all for it." — Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, on whether Big East football should expand