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Coming back for more

Kevin Gorman
| Friday, March 6, 2009

Pitt linebacker Adam Gunn didn't want his college football career to end with a broken neck sustained in the opening game of his senior season this past August.

His wish has been granted.

The NCAA approved Gunn's appeal for a sixth season of eligibility, making it possible for the Vandergrift native and Kiski Area graduate to play for the Panthers this fall, pending medical clearance by team doctors.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Gunn started at strong-side linebacker in 2007, finishing third on the team with 59 tackles. He was injured in a helmet-to-helmet collision with middle linebacker Scott McKillop in the third quarter against Bowling Green Aug. 30 at Heinz Field.

Gunn's father, Ed Gunn, said neither the injury nor the ensuing Sept. 15 surgery -- which fused the C-4 and C-5 vertebrae together with a titanium plate and four screws -- dampened Adam's desire to play football again.

"People who never played don't realize what that game is like," said Ed Gunn, whose older son, Sanford, also suffered a career-ending neck injury at Indiana (Pa.) University. "Physically, I knew he could handle it. Mentally was the thing. Adam verbalized it right away -- he wanted to play again."

Ed Gunn said Adam has been working out since being cleared for conditioning prior to the Panthers playing in the Sun Bowl this past December, preparing for either Pitt's Pro Day or spring drills. Gunn is expected to seek a medical evaluation before practice begins March 19.

"He's right where he's supposed to be," Ed Gunn said. "I think it would be good to err on the side of caution. It would probably be best if he didn't play spring ball. It would give him an extra three months to get ready for the season."

Adam Gunn, who is on track to earn his master's of public administration in December, could give Pitt's linebacker corps a veteran presence at either the strong-side or middle spots. Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, however, said the Panthers are making Gunn's health the top priority.

"We are very pleased for Adam that the NCAA has given him an extra year," Wannstedt said in a prepared statement. "The next step is for him to visit with our doctors to see if and when he will be physically ready to begin playing again. We are, first and foremost, concerned with Adam's long-term health."

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