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David Ortiz writes heartfelt letter to Yankees fans

David Ortiz, known by fans as Big Papi, will play his final game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. 

Hours before playing at the stadium on Tuesday, Ortiz released an open letter to Yankees fans that made many loyal Red Sox fans love him even more. 

Published in The Players Tribune, the letter is titled, "Thanks for the Memories, New York," and in it, Ortiz tells Yankee fans that he has a love for them. 

>> Read more trending stories  

"When I came to this country, and I was trying to make it to the big leagues, I looked at guys like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and I was almost in awe," Ortiz wrote. "When I got to play against the Yankees my first few years, I would watch some of the things Jeter would do in the field like I was just a fan.

"I learned a lot from watching DJ. I never got to tell him that when he was playing, but I did. The way he handled his business, and how much respect he had for this game, it made me want to be a better player.

"For real, I looked forward to hitting doubles against the Yankees so I could get to second base and say, 'What's up?' to DJ."

Ortiz, 40, wrote that the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox is part of what made playing baseball fun for him. 

"Our rivalry with the Yankees made me who I am," he wrote. "The intensity of that competition is what I'm gonna miss the most when I'm done. I could wake up in the morning and my body could be feeling (bad), but as soon as the bus pulls up to Yankee Stadium and I see that white fence on the upper deck, I'm like, 'It's on.'"

While he was growing up in the Dominican Republic, Ortiz said everyone not only wanted to go to New York, but they rooted for the Yankees. 

"We looked at New York City like the American dream," he wrote. "The Yankees were like a symbol of everything. If you wore a Yankees hat, maybe your cousin or uncle sent it down to you from New York, and it was like that hat was a symbol of everything you were dreaming to be."

Ortiz said that he was able to bring his mother to New York City while he was playing in the minor leagues in 1997, but she died in a car accident before he became a part of the Red Sox. 

"My life has turned out amazing, but the only thing I wish is that she could be here for all this. When I take the field at Yankee Stadium for the last time, she's not gonna be there to see it. That's kind of tough, to be honest with you. But I know she would be so proud that we made it to the top of the world."

And even though he grew up loving New York, he said that's not where he belongs.

"Boston is not just my team. Boston is my city," he wrote. "I consider myself a Bostonian, and it’s the thing I’m most proud of in the world.

"The Red Sox let me be me. You see my beard? The Yankees wouldn’t let me have that beard. I'd be shaving twice a day. But it goes beyond that. The Red Sox let me say what I feel. They let me be myself. If I was a Yankee, I'd be just like my boy, DJ."

Ortiz ended the letter by thanking Yankee fans, but promising that he's bringing his all to his final games at Yankee Stadium. 

"When our bus pulls up to Yankee Stadium today, I'm gonna be ready to go," he wrote. "And when I hear you boo me, I'm gonna try to hit the ball over that white fence, all the way to the ... choo choo train.

"Respect."

Ortiz also told The New York Times that over the course of his 20-year career, Yankee Stadium has been one of his favorite places to play.

"Yankee Stadium -- it might be my favorite place to hit, to play, regardless," he said. "The dimensions are perfect for a left-handed power hitter. All the emotions, all the adrenaline, all the competition -- competing against the Yankees has been outstanding."

Ortiz has a lifetime .970 on-base slugging percentage against the Yankees, according to The New York Times.

But despite Ortiz's respect for the Yankees, ending the season doesn't mean getting praise from the team's fans. He wants and expects to be booed.

"When you get used to something and you do well with it, you just don't want to change it," he said. "Basically, I'm so used to them booing me when I step on the field. It feels weird when it doesn't happen."

Read Ortiz's full letter at The Players Tribune and read more at The New York Times.

Quadree Henderson leads NCAA D-I in all-purpose yardage

Quadree Henderson has come almost out of nowhere to become a major contributor to Pitt's football team in 2016. The Pitt wide receiver has done so much in so many places that he actually leads the entire NCAA in D-I in terms of total all purpose yardage.

Henderson has racked up an incredible 825 total yards already through either receptions, rushes, and kick/punt return yards. That's good enough for first in D-I and his 206.25 yards per game are good enough for third in the nation.

One of the impressive things about Henderson being so high up on the list is the number of total plays he's been involved in compared to the two guys ahead of him on the per game average list - Heisman contender Christian McCaffrey and Donnel Pumphrey, the nation's leading rusher. Henderson has had 'only' 48 touches while McCaffrey has had twice as many touches (96) and Pumphrey has 82.

In a nutshell, those guys are barely beating him in per game average with many more opportunities. If you gave Henderson another 40 touches or so and there's no telling how much yardage he would have piled up.

Sure, much of the damage that Henderson has done has been on special teams. But that's also part of what makes him so dynamic. He has one kickoff return for a touchdown and has had a few long returns and gives Pitt a constant threat to break a game wide open. And while he has only 126 receiving yards, Henderson has also done a lot of damage as a runner with 260 rushing yards. He's the team's second leading rusher behind only James Conner and, considering how much we all talked up the running back depth on this team, that's pretty astonishing. Those 260 yards put him at No. 87 in the nation overall - and he's a wide receiver.

Pitt doesn't yet have the go to receiver that they lost in Tyler Boyd. But Henderson is doing more than his fair share of contributing and helping the Panthers' offense make plays.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt vs. Marshall: Breaking Down the Two-Deep

Looking at Pitt’s depth chart for Saturday’s game with Marshall.

Quarterback - 1. Nate Peterman 2. Manny Stocker

Nate Peterman started out strong on Saturday against North Carolina. He was 13-14 and was managing the game very well. I’m not sure who to blame for his fourth quarter play. Is it him? Is Matt Canada playing it conservative with Peterman? Is Narduzzi making that call? It’s all too strange. Either way, Peterman was 1-4 in the fourth quarter, his only competition was on a screen to Conner.

Look, I’m not in the blame Nate Peterman game. He is what he is. All I know is, Pitt needs to convert third downs late in games. The offense is scoring points, but they need to carry extra weight since the defense is so bad. Another play or two by the offense doesn’t put the defense in that position.

Running Back - 1. James Conner 2. Chawntez Moss OR Darrin Hall OR Qadree Ollison

James Conner had another strong game last week, and is putting together a nice season. One noticeable addition to Conner’s game is catching the ball. He now leads Pitt in both rushing and receiving yards. His added versatility is a nice plus.

Chawntez Moss is starting to look like the second back on the team. He had seven carries for 47 yards against the Tar Heels. He came in for a series early in the third quarter and made some nice plays, including a 13 yard run in which he was carrying defenders. He looks very good for a true freshmen.

Darrin Hall was third among the running backs with six carries (19 yards) while last season’s ACC Rookie of the Year, Qadree Ollison, was limited to just two carries for five yards. Not sure if Moss will continue to take carries from these guys, but for now he seems to be in the coaching staff’s good graces.

Fullback - 1. George Aston 2. Jaymar Parrish

George Aston is slowing becoming a cult hero. He scored his third touchdown of the season against the Tar Heels. Aston runs surprising well for a former walk-on. He’s come up with some big plays, and is really a fan favorite already.

Wide Receiver - 1. Jester Weah Quadree Henderson 2. Aaron Mathews OR Zach Challingsworth Tre Tipton 3. Rafael Araujo-Lopes

Qaudree Henderson is first nationally in total all-purpose yards, and is third in yards per game average behind only Christian McCaffrey and San Diego State star, Donnel Pumphrey. Henderson hauled in only three catches against the Tar Heels, but posted 100 yards rushing for the first time in his career. The jet-sweep by Matt Canada has been a revelation of sorts, and has confused teams for three straight weeks, all the while making Quadree Henderson one of the best weapons in college

Jester Weah chipped in one catch for 14 yards. Tre Tipton came down with three receptions for 18 yards, and Araujo-Lopes had one catch for seven yards. It appears these are the three players alongside Henderson that will anchor the receivers. They need more from the passing game in general, and these guys need to get open to make some plays.

Tight End - 1. Scott Orndoff 2. Jaymar Parrish

Scott Orndoff had nine catches in the first two weeks, and just had one since. He recorded zero catches against North Carolina. Orndoff is a solid weapon, and one I think Pitt should utilize more. We’ll see if he can get into the mix against Marshall.

Surprisingly, Jaymar Parrish hauled in a 22 yard catch against North Carolina. You don’t normally think of Parrish being a downfield receiving threat, but he made a big play.

LT - 1. Adam Bisnowaty 2. Aaron Reese

LG - 1. Dorian Johnson 2. Carson Baker

C - 1. Alex Officer 2. Connor Dintino

RG - 1. Alex Bookser 2. John Guy

RT - 1. Brian O’Neill 2. Jaryd Jones-Smith

You can’t ask much more from Pitt’s offensive line. They are controlling the line of scrimmage each and every week. Pitt is eating up the time of possession, and the rushing game ranks 15th nationally, and third in the ACC. Peterman generally has time to throw as well. They are fine, and just need to stay healthy.

DE - 1. Ejuan Price Rori Blair 2. Allen Edwards James Folston 3. Rashad Weaver

Ejuan Price is second in the country in sacks and tackles for loss. He is tied for third in forced fumbles. Price had some big plays on Saturday against North Carolina including a tackle for loss on Ryan Switzer that caused a safety.

Blair came down with half a sack, and two tackles against North Carolina. The Tar Heels got rid of the ball quickly, and it seemed like the pass rush was hard to get going consistently.

DT - 1. Shakir Soto 2. Keyshon Camp OR Amir Watts

I thought Shakir Soto had a very strong game on Saturday. He had four tackles, with one of them going for a loss. It’s hard to always judge how a defensive tackle plays, but I thought he made his impact felt. Overall, his move inside has been a positive in my eyes.

NT - 1. Tyrique Jarrett 2. Shane Roy OR Mike Herndon

It’s not always about the stats with a nose tackle. He’s there to clog the middle. North Carolina was held to 18 yards on 22 carries this past week. While Pitt’s pass defense is in shambles, the run defense has been pretty good. It’s just a bit overshadowed a bit.

Money Linebacker - 1. Mike Caprara 2. Saleem Brightwell

Caprara was out Saturday and is still listed as the starter anyway, but his backup Saleem Brightwell was on the field quite a bit. Brightwell was active with a sack, a fumble recovery, and pass breakup to go along with five tackles. He was a recruit many were excited about out of high school, perhaps he gets himself into the mix more each and every week.

Mike Linebacker - 1. Matt Galambos 2. Quintin Wirginis

Matt Galambos had four tackles, while Wirginis chipped in with three. Wirginis recorded his second sack of the season as well. Again as I mentioned above, the run defense was solid. The defense got some pressure on the quarterback as well, but this pass defense is among the worst in the country.

Star Linebacker - 1. Seun Idowu 2. Bam Bradley

This spot was a problem on Saturday. It kept getting matched with a slot receiver, and Idowu was not up to the task. Narduzzi keeps mentioning he won’t change personnel, but this isn’t working out too well. I believe they miss Elijah Zeise here.

Cornerback - 1. Avonte Maddox Ryan Lewis 2. Dane Jackson Phillipie Motley

Not much to say here, we’ve been watching it for three weeks now.

Strong Safety - 1. Jordan Whitehead 2. Dennis Briggs

I thought Whitehead was better against North Carolina than the Oklahoma State, although the bar was rather low for that. Whitehead led the team with 12 tackles, and had a forced fumble on a big hit in the first quarter. The pass coverage is on the entire secondary, but fewer big plays seems to happen when Whitehead is near.

Free Safety - 1. Terrish Webb 2. Reggie Mitchell

This position has been a letdown this season given their experience.

Kicker - Chris Blewitt Punter - Ryan Winslow Long Snapper - Pat Quirin

Chris Blewitt nailed a 50 yard field goal and a 40 yard field goal, while also going a perfect 4/4 from extra points. He turned his season around rather quickly after a very poor start.

Kick/Punt Returner - 1. Quadree Henderson 2. Avonte Maddox

Be honest, there was a split second you thought Henderson was going the whole way with two seconds left.

King of the Hill: ACC Football Power Rankings (Week 4)

Here’s a look at this week’s updated rankings

Here are this week’s ACC Power Rankings.

The big dilemma for me was trying to figure out what to do with Pitt. They sit at only 2-2 but have suffered some really late losses and were in position to win both road games.

Ultimately, I kept them at No. 7 but went back and forth a bit between that spot and No. 8 where 3-1 Georgia Tech resides. Tech’s narrow win against Boston College earlier this year coupled with a three-score loss to Clemson at home was enough for me to slot them just behind the Panthers.

Still not buying into the Wake Forest hype train just yet with their four wins against Tulane, Duke, Delaware, and Indiana.

Let me know what I got right/wrong in the comments. Previous week’s ranking is in parentheses.

  1. Louisville (1) / 4-0: 31-point beatdown against Marshall
  2. Clemson (3) / 4-0: After a slow start to the season, Clemson moves up a spot with a nice 26-7 win over Georgia Tech
  3. Miami (2) / 3-0: Hurricanes were idle
  4. Florida State (4) / 3-1: 55-35 win over South Florida
  5. North Carolina (5) / 3-1: 37-36 win over Pitt
  6. Virginia Tech (9) / 3-1: Another blowout win for Hokies with 54-17 victory over East Carolina
  7. Pitt (7) / 2-2: Narrow loss to Tar Heels keeps Panthers at No. 7
  8. Georgia Tech (6) / 3-1: 19-point loss to Clemson drops Yellow Jackets down two spots
  9. Wake Forest (10) / 4-0: Demon Deacons still perfect after 33-28 win over Indiana
  10. North Carolina State (8) / 2-1: Idle Wolfpack drop two spots after other teams stepped up
  11. Duke (11) / 2-2: 38-35 win over a struggling Notre Dame team
  12. Boston College (12) / 2-2: 42-10 rout over Wagner
  13. Syracuse (13) / 2-2: 31-24 win over UConn
  14. Virginia (14) / 1-3: 49-35 win over Central Michigan
Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

More talk of Jamel Artis at point guard

Pitt basketball could move their small forward for this season

Earlier this year, there was quite a bit of discussion after some comments made by Pitt forward Jamel Artis about possibly playing point guard for the team this season. Head coach Kevin Stallings not only reiterated that, but also says Artis is actually the favorite to win that job:

Kevin Stallings told @CBSSports that Jamel Artis is currently the favorite to be Pitt's starting point guard this season.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 26, 2016

Artis playing point isn’t surprising news since that was stated back in July. But this is the first I’ve seen of Stallings saying he’s the leader to win that job.

Now, how much he plays there is up for debate. Stallings, in fact, said recently that he would play ‘some’ point guard.

Pitt, of course, lost long-time starter James Robinson to graduation this past season and needs a replacement. There are options, such as sophomore Damon Wilson and upperclassman Jonathan Milligan. In addition, there’s Crisshawn Clark and incoming freshman Justice Kithcart. But the one thing Artis in that spot would allow is for the Panthers’ to field a bigger lineup. Pitt could even conceivably have a massive backcourt if they decided to start Cameron Johnson at shooting guard. I’m not sure that happens with Chris Jones there, but you get my point. Some combination of Artis, Jones/Johnson, and say, Sheldon Jeter, Ryan Luther, and Michael Young, gives the team quite a bit of height.

It’s going to be interesting how this shakes out. One concern of mine was that Artis could lose some of his scoring focus, which has been crucial for the team at times, if he’s worried about running the offense. But perhaps that’s made up for with the development of guys like Johnson and Luther. In addition, Stallings said in that linked Trib article that he wants Artis to be a ‘scoring’ point guard and not just setting up players/running the offense. That gives me some form of confidence in knowing that Stallings realizes how important he is as a scorer.

Also keep in mind that this is something that could help Artis’ draft stock. Currently, he’s more of a fringe guy as an undrafted free agent, but a bit year could easily vault him into the second round. Don’t forget, Lamar Patterson was completely off the radar before his senior season when he worked his way into the NBA Draft. If Artis is able to show off his ballhandling and playmaking abilities, that will give scouts another reason to keep him on their radar. He wouldn’t be a point guard in the NBA but those abilities would help him get noticed.

Again, we’ll have to wait and see how this all shakes out. At the very least, it sounds as if Stallings is planning on shaking things up quite a bit with an established roster.

Something to watch for the upcoming season.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

WATCH: Dee Gordon pays tribute to Jose Fernandez with emotional home run

Miami second baseman Dee Gordon took New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon deep on Monday in the Marlins' first game since the death of Jose Fernandez.

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>> Watch the clip here

On Sunday, Fernandez died in a boating accident off the coast of Florida.

The left-handed Gordon, who was one of Fernandez’s closest friends, paid tribute to the ace pitcher by taking Colon's first pitch as a righty. Gordon then switched back to his left side before knocking Colon's third pitch out of the park for his first homer of the season. The crowd went into hysterics as Gordon, visibly emotional, rounded the bases. He burst into tears once he reached the dugout.

>> Marlins honor Jose Fernandez on emotional night

"It seemed like it took forever," Gordon told The Associated Press. "I was trying to get back to my teammates as fast as possible. I was just wondering why Jose wasn't there standing on the top step cheering for me."

Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton called the moment "pure emotion."

>> Read more trending stories

"There's no other way it could be scripted, unless you're in a movie rewriting everything that just happened," Stanton said.

The Marlins won 7-3.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

WATCH: Falcons, Saints join hands midfield in circle of unity before kickoff

The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints kicked off their game with a unique moment Monday night.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><span>  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;</span><span>  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.7";</span><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>With a message of togetherness, the Falcons and Saints lock arms and put the rivalry aside for a moment before #MNF. #Together #ATLvsNOPosted by Atlanta Falcons on Monday, September 26, 2016

After everyone stood for the national anthem, the teams left the sidelines and came together in the middle of the field where they held hands.

The two teams formed a circle around the 50-yard line for a moment of unity and reflection. Some players bowed their heads for a few moments before the teams returned to their sidelines.

>> Read more trending stories

The ESPN announcer said the players decided to do the show of unity in light of last week’s police shootings and the demonstrations that have been going on around the NFL.

“With a message of togetherness, the Falcons and Saints lock arms and put the rivalry aside for a moment before #MNF,” the Falcons posted on their Facebook page.

>> Watch the clip here

Marlins honor Jose Fernandez on emotional night

The boy, only 6, turned to his father as he prepared to write a personal message to Jose Fernandez on the makeshift Wall of Remembrance outside Marlins Park.

“How do you spell love?” he asked.

You spell it the way the Miami Marlins did Monday night.

You spell it in ways large and small, such as the No. 16 every Marlins player wore — and which no Marlins player will ever wear again.

You spell it with a moment of silence and hugs shared by each Marlins player with each Mets player. With a fairytale leadoff home run by the Marlins’ Dee Gordon, who was overcome with emotion.

>> Read more trending stories

You spell it with a pregame team gathering at the mound Jose Fernandez commanded with fire and joy. And you spell it with your index finger, as each Marlins player did, inscribing their personal messages to Jose in that mound.

“Rest with God,” one player wrote.

A day earlier, they were jolted awake with news that Fernandez, their 24-year-old spark plug, had been killed with two friends in a boating accident off Miami Beach.

A night earlier, instead of playing a game, the entire team was bused to the Fernandez family home for an excruciating 45 minutes, trying to find comforting words for a family but knowing no such words exist.

How do you play a game a day after that? One way is the way the Marlins did, blowing out the New York Mets by taking a 5-0 lead in the first two innings. Gordon sparked it while wearing Fernandez’s batting helmet, according to Fox Sports Florida.

But how much relief could it possibly be at a time when manager Don Mattingly said the objective was simply, “just get through the day.”

Everyone wondered how. Owner Jeffrey Loria mentioned Roberto Clemente, Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson — baseball tragedies that never healed.

“And sadly Jose,” he said.

Loria made it clear Fernandez’s No. 16 will be retired.

“Nobody’s going to wear it, I can tell you that now,” he said. “Nobody will wear that number again.”

Loria called this his “lowest moment.” Someone asked if he’d feel any differently if it were a blood relative.

“It wouldn’t feel any different whatsoever,” he said softly.

He recalled the phone call from team President David Samson on Sunday morning:

“Jose’s been killed.”

“What? What?”

Loria was in New York, sitting in the same chair he once sat in when he fielded another call with bad news.

“That chair is gone now,” he said. “That chair left the house yesterday.”

A few feet away, Scott Boras, Fernandez’s agent, recalled getting his phone call when it was 4:30 a.m. in California before hopping on a plane.

“When you get here it hits …,” Boras said, breaking down.

Mattingly, too, was glassy-eyed in meeting with reporters before the game. Visiting the Fernandez family, he said, had taken him back in time.

“Watching his mom and grandmother yesterday reminded me of my brother, who was killed at 23, when I was like 6 years old,” Mattingly said. “And they shielded me. I was not really a part of all that, what was going on. But now I know what was going on. So I knew the pain.”

The visit was “unspeakable,” Samson said.

“You walk into that house and there was a hole,” he said. “I’m not a spiritual man. It felt like there was a hole above the house and it had taken Jose to heaven and left his people wondering, ‘Where did that hole come from?’”

Fernandez’s services are pending but likely to be at a church near the ballpark on Thursday and open to the public, Samson said. The team is off Thursday and the players “will certainly be able to attend,” he said.

Samson and Loria made it clear the Marlins will map out a long-term plan to honor Fernandez. For now, they will wear a patch on their uniforms beginning Tuesday night.

Outside the ballpark, fans silently and patiently stood in line, waiting to sign the Wall of Remembrance. They included 6-year-old Luis Cruz Jr., who asked his father how to spell love in his message to Fernandez, who lived two blocks down.

Anthony Perez-Florido of Pinecrest quietly added flowers to a growing stack.

“Most of us come from a Cuban background, and this guy told the exact story — what we suffered, what our ancestors suffered through,” said Perez-Florido, who at 24 is the same age as Fernandez. “He almost had to sacrifice his life in order to get here to the United States and he found freedom here, finally.”

All Cubans could relate, Perez-Florido added.

“Any problem you had in the world, when you came out to the ballpark it’s Jose Day, it was the happiest day in the world,” he said.

Monday was the saddest.

It began with a moment of silence. As it concluded, Mets manager Terry Collins embraced Mattingly. Players took the cue, the teams lining up, somewhat like postgame handshakes in the NHL playoffs, except handshakes wouldn’t do. Each Met hugged each Marlin, patting him on the back in the process. A video tribute played.

After players held what appeared to be a group prayer and wrote on the mound, the public address played the Furious 7 song, “See You Again.”

Fitting all the Marlins with No. 16 required the approval of Major League Baseball, then a race against time. The uniform company in Philadelphia worked through the night, flying them down just in time, with “FERNANDEZ” on the back of each.

The evening was toned down. Between innings, soft music played as the center-field video board displayed images of Fernandez, seemingly always grinning, interspersed with tweets and shots of fans holding signs in tribute. Players chose special walk-up music Fernandez liked.

Memories? Everybody had them. Once composed, Boras mentioned how he used to tease Fernandez for having a better earned-run average at home than on the road. He used to tell Fernandez, “I’m going to take your mother on the road, because your ERA is a run and a half lower when she’s in the stadium.”

Loria remembered taking a young Fernandez shopping for something to hold his electronic toys on the road.

“We’re going to get you the roller bags you need so you look like a major-league baseball player,” Loria recalled saying. “We went, and to his credit, he didn’t want the most expensive one there. I had to insist on it.”

Stories helped ease the pain. Although he wasn’t specific, Mattingly said players have “all kinds of resources” to cope. He held a team meeting, during which time there were 38 grown men, all crying, Samson said.

“They’re a unit that lost a leg, an appendage,” Samson said. “And they’re trying to figure out how to get mobile again.”

The shock was still too fresh, the pain too raw, for Samson, who would not refer to Fernandez in the past tense. Maybe time will help.

“Next year, you’re going to see celebrations of his life,” Samson said. “But it’s nothing to celebrate today. There’s just crying. There’s tears. There’s questioning. There’s people trying to figure it out.

“There will be time to celebrate his life. And we will celebrate it.

“There’s a lot to celebrate.”

Pat Narduzzi says personnel changes could come at Pitt

After Pitt's secondary collapse against Oklahoma State a couple of games ago, Pat Narduzzi was asked if there would be any personnel changes coming. At the time, he said no.

However, it sounds as if the head coach is reconsidering after yet another disappointing game by the Panthers' pass defense.

"You might see one or two," Narduzzi said when asked if the Panthers coaches would be making any personnel changes. "I don't know if it will help things. There's always time to shake things up a little bit and we'll shake things up."

Narduzzi also made a point to say that he believes that the coaches have most of the right players on the field. But his admission that there could be changes coming means that they are at least open to trying a few different guys.

So where could Pitt be making some changes? I mean, if it's not the secondary, I don't know where it would be. One that stands out to me in particular is safety. Terrish Webb had a rough game against North Carolina and if you remember back to training camp, the safety spot opposite Jordan Whitehead was one that went right down to the wire with Webb and Reggie Mitchell, a former starter. Giving Mitchell a crack at the starting job might not be a terrible idea.

Then there's cornerback. Unfortunately, the team isn't as deep here with another known commodity available. Both Avonte Maddox and Ryan Lewis have struggled this year and some might argue that Maddox has been worse. Ironically, Maddox was/is the No. 1 guy out of camp and his job wasn't seen as up for grabs while Lewis was fighting to win his.

The problem is that there isn't a Mitchell-like opportunity here. Pitt could try to turn to one of its younger guys like Dane Jackson or Phillipie Motley, the two players listed behind Maddox and Lewis on the depth chart. But both are underclassmen, as are others such as freshmen Malik Henderson and Therran Coleman.

It's fine to clamor for changes, but part of the reason the Panthers have been hesitant to make moves there is simply because those guys are very, very green.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

College football player passes out on first flight ever

Sure the Kennesaw State University football team felt like it was floating on air when an interception for a touchdown led the team to victory Saturday, but one player found out beforehand he may not like that feeling.

He found that out on the airplane ride to the game in Pittsburgh. It was his first plane ride and he passed out. And it was filmed by his teammates, who of course tweeted it out.

The freakout by redshirt freshman Keagan Jordan was captured and shared by teammate Xavier Harper, who said it was Jordan's first flight.

It wasn't just the first flight for Jordan, a three-year letterman at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School in Fayetteville, it was the first flight in the football program's history. KSU’s football program is two years old.

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So Jordan wasn't the only one.

"There were about 40 on the team that had never flown before, so that was the first experience for a lot of guys," said Mike DeGeorge, the university's sports spokesman.

The pre-passout episode included Jordan clutching his chest, holding onto the seat in front of him for dear life and a terrified, "Oh! Oh! Oh my God! We ain't gone make it!"

All the while, his teammates calming him down by lovingly laughing directly at him and reminding him that the plane hadn't even taken off yet.

And then it did.

The first sight of which was apparently too much for the 6-foot, 223-pound football player to handle — and he passed out.

He didn't know it because he was unconscious, but his comrades rushed to his aid while laughing between yells of, "He passed out! He passed out!"

Here's to hoping he at least got the whole can of soda.

He must have been OK because he played, mostly on special teams, in the 36-28 victory over Duquesne.

DeGeorge said that with the video getting so much attention, it was a good way to remind his student-athletes about the power of the internet.

"That’s the beauty of social media — you never know what goes viral and what doesn’t. We are always preaching to our student-athletes to be responsible on social media, and to be aware of their surroundings, because anything can be caught on camera, and made public. I doubt anyone expected this to explode the way it did," he said.

But Jordan will get a chance at redemption: The team's next flight is Oct. 28 to Monmouth University in New Jersey.

Watch the video in all its glory. The post has earned more than 4,000 retweets:

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