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August 11, 2013Devin Street was at a loss for words.
A smile crept across his face. His eyes gave a blank stare as if his body was present, but his mind was wandering. Every time he reached for the correct syntax, his brain could only bear another tooth in his grin.
Street had just finished another practice in his final collegiate training camp after deciding put off the NFL for one more year while he exhausts his eligibility at Pitt for his senior season. His approach has become more professional, more of what will be expected this time next year. But as he reached for the words to describe the method to his approach during his final season, his thoughts were a world away.
"I kind of waded the waters and saw what it was like," Street said during a post-practice interview in the first week of camp. "Now I know; I think I've matured. I took a trip to Haiti, which I think I needed. It was a great experience for me, just trying to figure out what life's about and growing up, just kind of figuring it out.
"It's hard to put into words. It definitely is," the fifth-year senior added, now struggling between every sentence to find the next while a wry smile comes and goes like waves. "It's that powerful. Seeing how someone has to live, it's hard. It was definitely a great experience, a blessing. I can't wait to get back there."
For now, though, Street has figured out what's important, and that is working hard to be the best.
Street, Pitt's unquestioned top receiver in 2013, wants to improve on his breakout junior season, and he is pushing himself to become better every day. While head coach Paul Chryst is working to build a program - something that can take time and have growing pains - Street knows this is it for his career and he wants to make the most of it.
"It's press time for me," he said. "I can't worry about 'down the road.' It's right now. Like I said, I'm just trying to work, get that extra effort, always pushing myself - whether it be film, whether it be out [on the practice field] - I'm always trying to find that extra little niche.
"I'm competing with myself, and I'm also competing out here. I want to be the best in the country. To be the best, I have to push myself."
That's been a key in Chryst's message throughout camp: players competing with themselves. If Pitt players only compete with each other, they'll only be as good as the team. But if they can compete within themselves, a player can raise his ceiling and be the best he is capable of being.
Street is, hands down, the best receiver on the team and he's not receiving a huge push for playing time by the receivers behind him. The fifth-year receiver from eastern Pennsylvania will be on the field a lot and will catch a lot of passes in 2013.
He is getting stiff competition from the guys across from him, starting cornerbacks K'Waun Williams and Lafayette Pitts. But in order to improve on last season's 73-catch, 975-yard and five-touchdown performance, Street understands he must put in the work to get there.
"Just keep pushing myself, never settling," he said. "Coming into this camp, I've been in the offense. This is my second year. I know pretty much all the plays when we're in meetings. It's just always trying to find that extra, that extra effort."
Street also has a chance at history in 2013.
During his tenure at Pitt, Street has caught 151 passes for 2,047 yards and nine touchdowns. He ranks sixth on the all-time list in receptions, just 28 shy of passing Latef Grim's school record. He also sits at No. 10 on Pitt's career receiving yardage list, 1,014 yard behind leader Antonio Bryant.
The fifth-year senior has a realistic shot at both marks, but they won't come easy. Breaking records will require hard work, attention to detail and consistency throughout his final season, and all those things are on Street.
He says he's ready for the challenge and to lead the team through the season.
"We have to be tough-minded," he said. "It happened in the past where it didn't go our way, and we can't use any excuse any more. We have to hone in, focus and go out there and play."