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Pitta breaking records, making history at BYU



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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.

NameYearsRecYardsTDs
Brian Billick1974-1976466273
Clay Brown1978-1980881,69117
Gordon Hudson1981-19831782,48412
David Mills1981, 1983-1984691,1219
Trevor Molini1984-19861051,3554
Chris Smith1987-19901372,3678
Bryon Rex1990-1992871,2097
Chad Lewis1993-19961111,37610
Itula Mili1991, 1994-19961251,76311
Doug Jolley1998-20015276811
Gabe Reid1999-2002171894
Daniel Coats2003-2006869669
Jonny Harline2005-20061211,78817
Dennis Pitta2004, 2007-present2162,75620

His impressive career in Provo has made him a finalist for the John Mackey Award, given to the best tight end in college football. "He's an outstanding tight end, best in the nation. He should win the Mackey Award, no doubt," said fellow senior tight end Andrew George.

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."

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Story compiled with contributions from Jeremiah Jensen and KSL Sports producer Dave Noriega.

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