The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 19 days away from its Labor Day opener against Florida State at Heinz Field. Panther-Lair.com is counting down the days until the biggest season opener in recent memory.
Today's number is 19, so we're looking at the complicated career of No. 19.
Nearly six years later, the memory of that afternoon in Louisville is still vivid for Pat Bostick. He still remembers lining up with the end zone just three feet away. He remembers the locker room after the worst possible outcome. He remembers seeing his father outside that locker room. He remembers flanking his head coach with his backfield mate in a post-game press conference.
He remembers the tears. And he remembers the support.
It was October 27, 2007. One week after breaking a four-game losing streak with a huge win over a ranked Cincinnati team, Pitt was in Louisville to face the Cardinals, who had embarrassed the Panthers for two years in a row. Pitt was 3-4 on the season and looking to turn things around after an awful stretch, and Bostick was the Panthers' freshman quarterback.
To that point in the game he had completed 10-of-20 passes for 136 yards, but that included a 19-yard pass to Oderick Turner that put Pitt on the one-yard line with time running out and the Panthers trailing 24-17. But with the ball on the one, Pitt went to the workhorse, freshman running back LeSean McCoy. Bostick took the snap and turned to put the ball in McCoy's stomach, but something went wrong. The ball bounced out and Louisville's Rod Council jumped on it.
It was an unbelievable way to end a game in a season full of unbelievable circumstances. And while Pitt fans remember Bostick's career primarily for the big wins he was a part of, when he looks back today, he sees days like that one in Louisville.
"I tried my best to get it done and fell short, and I felt like I let a lot of guys down," Bostick said recently. "I was 18 years old, [McCoy] was 19, and we were both crying like babies. I remember seeing my dad after the game and I couldn't even…I just felt like, there was a guy right there in the backfield pointing the finger at himself when it was my job to get him the ball. We both took the blame.
"We pointed the finger at ourselves; both of us. I learned a lot about my teammates and I learned a lot about LeSean that day, because he didn't even flinch in taking the blame. That was a tough one to swallow."
Two weeks later, Pitt went to Rutgers and had another "tough one to swallow," when Bostick's game-winning touchdown pass was called back on an offensive pass interference call. But much of Bostick's career at Pitt was defined by adversity, whether it was the circumstances that led him to leave Pitt on the eve of his first training camp, his admittedly not-ready-for-prime-time thrust into the starting lineup in the fifth game of the 2007 season, his still-unexplained playing time in 2008, his seemingly "late" redshirt in 2009, his random appearances in 2010 and ultimately his departure from the team following the hiring of Todd Graham.
Of course, Bostick's story started earlier than any of that, and his tale isn't complete without telling it from the beginning. A year and a half before the Louisville game in 2007, Bostick sat in the auditorium at Manheim Township High School and publicly announced what most had already assumed: he would be playing college football at Pitt.
A four-star prospect and the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the nation, Bostick was a coup for the Pitt coaches. Privately, they couldn't contain their excitement at landing the standout from eastern Pennsylvania, and the fan base shared in that enthusiasm. To say there were high expectations is an understatement; Pitt fans expected Bostick be leading the charge to return Pitt to greatness.
That didn't happen. Bostick finished his four-year career at Pitt with nine starts in 20 games played. He completed 60.5% of his passes for 1,814 yards, nine touchdowns and 19 interceptions, and Pitt went 4-5 in the nine games he started. But included in that record are two of the biggest wins in program history - or at least in the Dave Wannstedt Era - when Pitt upset then-No. 2 West Virginia in Morgantown in 2007 and beat Notre Dame in four overtimes in South Bend in 2008.
Those are the types of wins that make quarterbacks into legends, and while Bostick's own performances in those games were overshadowed by McCoy's unbelievable efforts, they still stand as wins on his record.
Just as important to him are the relationships he made during his time at Pitt.
"That's far and away number one on the list and that's one of the reasons you come to a place like Pitt," Bostick said of his relationships with former teammates. "There's an opportunity to revive a giant in college football and we all wanted to be a part of that when we walked in here. We didn't get it done, and it's still in the process of hopefully getting back to that level.
"But going through camp together, running the hills with [strength coach Buddy Morris], hanging out on the weekend, the ups and downs, you really form a bond that transcends time. I feel like that's unique to Pitt. I'd be hard-pressed to find a closer bond among teammates than what we have and how it has lasted."
Still, Bostick knows there were expectations for what he could deliver to Pitt. He knows fans held those expectations for him, and he held them for himself. But even if he didn't bring the success he hoped for, there's no question that Bostick gave as much to - and for - the Pitt football program as anyone he shared the locker room with.
"I'm not naïve enough to think that I didn't let some people down," he said. "You try all you want to say you're ignoring all the hype (as a recruit); it meant nothing, but it was important for what it meant to Pitt fans, and what I wanted to get done is what they wanted to get done. I wanted to lead this team to a championship and restore Pitt football.
"I know I didn't do my part on the field to get it done, but I tried my best to contribute to Pitt in whatever way I could and with everything I had. That's what I want them to remember me for: there were a lot of tough times, there were certainly a lot of losses and a lot of wins, too, but I always gave everything I had - whether it was on the field, whether it was in the film room, whether it was in the meeting room or with my teammates - to get this thing going.
"There probably aren't many people that love Pitt more than I do."
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