Pat Narduzzi’s tug-of-war teaches Pitt players to finish what they start |

Pat Narduzzi’s tug-of-war teaches Pitt players to finish what they start

Jerry DiPaola

Dane Jackson considers the football field his “sanctuary,” a place where he can “leave it all out there.”

But Pitt’s rising senior cornerback has yet to reach fulfillment during this year’s winter conditioning sessions that coach Pat Narduzzi likes to call “fourth-quarter drills.”

No one has challenged Jackson in the tug-of-war since his freshman year, when he teamed with safety Jazzee Stocker to defeat 340-pound nose tackle Tyrique Jarrett.

“But I hope they do,” he said. “I’m up for a challenge, whenever.”

The tug-of-war, undoubtedly, is the most popular activity among players until the footballs come out of the bags Wednesday for the start of spring practice.

Narduzzi matches offensive players against their defensive colleagues in one-on-one tussles officiated by strength coach Dave Andrews.

The defense won five of six Thursday, with cornerback Marquis Williams, linemen David Green, John Morgan and Tyler Bentley, safety/linebacker Phil Campbell and wide receiver Michael Smith recording victories.

Running back A.J. Davis dropped the rope prematurely, thinking he had won, but the joust wasn’t over. Campbell was declared the winner while Davis dived unsuccessfully for the rope.

“That’s what these fourth quarters are all about,” Narduzzi said, “the discipline, finishing every drill. If you don’t finish, you lose. That was a great learning experience for him.”

Center Jimmy Morrissey was forced to sit out the tug-of-war as he recovers from ankle surgery.

“I wish I could be out there,’” he said. “I’m a big fan of tug-of-war.”

He watched closely and figured out why the offense lost.

“The defense was smarter,” he said. “They dropped their hips and kept their feet moving. Our guys just tried to plant and hold. It didn’t turn out too well for us.

The tug-of-war begins on Narduzzi’s whistle and while players on both sides shouted encouragement, the coach remained calm while trying not to get run over.

“I just want to watch them compete, look in their faces and see what they got,” Narduzzi said. “The kids are working hard.”

Narduzzi and his staff must teach plenty of lessons. Seventeen seniors left after winning the ACC Coastal championship, but the season was somewhat unfulfilled with a 7-7 record and season-ending three-game losing streak.

Jackson said the goal this season is to be “better than last year.”

That quest begins while running through cones, pushing weights up and down the field, tugging repeatedly on a fire hose and sprinting whenever the coaches say so. Until the official start of spring drills, footballs are not permitted on the field if coaches are present, according to an NCAA rule.

“We try to pay attention to details out here, whatever it is,” Narduzzi said. “The way you stand on our commands when we say, ‘ready and hit.’ Trying to get them in the rhythm of doing the right thing all the time.”

Jackson, already a two-year starter, said the test is more mental than physical.

“You’re able to do it physically,” he said. “Now, it’s just about, can you get through one more (drill) and help the team out? Who’s going to last? This brings the most out of any guy. Nonstop running. Nonstop people showing their leadership. Who’s going to fight to the end?”

Get the latest news about Pitt football and all things Panthers athletics.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi enters this season with a new defensive coordinator, offensive line coach and defensive backs coach.
Categories: Sports | Pitt
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.