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PROVO -- Lost in the shuffle of Saturday's rivalry game between BYU and Utah was the milestone reached by Dennis Pitta, who quietly goes about his business as the best tight end in the country.
During Saturday's game, Pitta made history and passed his friend and former teammate Austin Collie to become BYU's all-time leader in receptions with 216.
"Austin's record there was pretty short-lived, and I'll give him a hard time about it," Pitta said.
|David Mills||1981, 1983-1984||69||1,121||9|
|Itula Mili||1991, 1994-1996||125||1,763||11|
|Dennis Pitta||2004, 2007-present||216||2,756||20|
Pitta is one of three finalists for the 2009 John Mackey Award. Among the finalists, Pitta leads in receiving yards (784) and receptions (57) and is second in touchdowns (7).
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said, "He works hard every day in practice, catches everything that's thrown to him. He's a true teammate, that's completely unselfish and is, again, the all-time receptions leader at a school that throws the ball and has had great quarterbacks and receivers."
While teammates, coaches and fans laud him as one of the best ever, Pitta remains humble about his talents and accomplishments at BYU as his career comes to a close.
"I'm just grateful to have been able to contribute in the way I have, to be given the opportunity that I was given," he said.
Pitta came to BYU as a walk-on but will leave having broken nearly every tight end record in school history. He does so with reverence for the legends that came before him.
"It's awesome to follow in the footsteps of some great players. I've looked up to those guys. They've been like mentors to me, and it's awesome just to be able to continue that tradition," Pitta said.
Pitta is no shoe-in to win the Mackey Award, but etching his name in history as the nation's best tight end in 2009 may be easier than etching his name in history as the best tight end ever at BYU.
Cougar tight ends have earned 9 All-American citations -- including Pitta, a third-team All-American in 2008. BYU has 19 first-team all-conference selections at tight end, including a first-team All-Mountain West Conference tight end in each of the past five seasons. The last three have all been Dennis Pitta.
All-American tight end Gordon Hudson is in the College Football Hall of Fame. Chad Lewis, Itula Mili, Doug Jolley, and Gabe Reid all led NFL teams to the Super Bowl. But Dennis Pitta has more receptions (216), receiving yards (2.756), and touchdowns (20) than all of them. In fact, after the season finale against Utah, Pitta's 216 receptions rank first in BYU history among all receivers, not only tight ends.
Pitta has been the face of consistency. He has a reception in 42 consecutive games, another BYU record.
"He's strong, physical and tough. He's much further along than I was in college," said former pro bowl tight end Chad Lewis. "He continues to be physical. He has a chance to be a high draft pick."