Former Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko lives in Kansas City with his wife and four children, but he doesn’t miss an opportunity to watch Pitt. We caught up with him to get his thoughts on the Panthers’ run toward a Coastal championship, what he thinks about Pat Narduzzi and his greatest memories at Pitt.
Q. Pitt is now the overwhelming favorite to win the Coastal. What have you thought as you’ve watched this team inch closer to that goal?
A: Any time you’re on the verge of anything, it means you haven’t accomplished it yet, but they control their own destiny. With that being said, this kind of reminds me when we won the Big East, and played in the Fiesta Bowl my sophomore year. We were right in the middle of the road, didn’t play great, then you went on a run and as a player when you go on a run the confidence level goes up. You feel like you’re gelling and as a coach, you kind of get the feeling that hey our guys get it. They’re starting to get our system. As a fan and a former player it’s really cool to see them go on a little bit of a run because they’re starting to come together. That’s really cool to watch the ultimate team sport, see them gelling at the right time. You hear that all the time going into the playoffs of anything you want to be peaking at the right time. So let’s hope that’s the case.
Q. Since you’ve been in a similar situation, how do players put disappointing losses behind them, like those against Penn State and UCF, and focus on the remainder of the season?
A: The reality is they got their butts whooped twice, and it stings, but as a player and especially in football, you can’t do anything about it. You have to get ready for next week. It was disappointing, but you operate on that 24 hour rule. You have 24 hours to pout and feel bad for yourself and you’ve got to get ready to play next week. Fortunately, those losses to Notre Dame, UCF and Penn State were nonconference, and in order to win the ACC, you’ve got to win ACC games, so I’m sure they learned a lot from it.
Q. What have you thought about the Pitt run game and the way Kenny Pickett has led the offense?
A: Any time as a quarterback you have a strong running game it helps you. Quarterbacks love to throw it, and running the ball is not the most sexy thing in the world to do, to turn around and hand it off, but when you’re in the system they have where they’re a pro-style offense and they’re going to run the ball and shorten the game, it helps play-action passes come up. It helps you as a quarterback get into the feel when you know you don’t have to go out and win the game all by yourself. It’s a really good feeling to know you have a run game there that can help you out, that can open some things up. When you can do that, as the quarterback you have a big smile on your face.
Q. What do you think about the way Pat Narduzzi has led this program?
A: I think coach will tell you this: They brought him in there to win and win championships. Up to this point, they’re trending in the right direction. I like coach’s attitude. He’s a Youngstown guy but that’s very similar to Pittsburgh. Pitt is a unique job. I know all schools say their school is unique but Pitt’s in a unique position because you’ve got to be able to recruit kids to a city campus and they have to fit that culture. I think coach has done a great job up to this point and I’m looking forward to seeing how we finish the year. I think he’s a good fit for Pitt. Eveything he stands for, toughness, hard work that blue-collar mentality you look back at when Pitt won, that’s the type of coaches they had, so I’m hoping this will be the year they can turn over that leaf and play for a championship.
Q. What is your greatest memory from your Pitt career?
A: There were a lot of them. We won some pretty big games, and obviously the Notre Dame game. There’s a lot of really good memories, winning the Big East, getting a chance to go to a BCS game. There’s a lot of fond memories of my college career and I look back on it with a lot of happiness and accomplishment. We left a couple things out there, but it was a great experience.
Q. What do you do now?
A: I run a leadership development consulting company so we go into privately held companies and help develop their next generation of leaders. It’s kind of like the strength coach for guys that are going to redshirt, so we work on leadership skills, how to handle conflict, and develop their communication and leadership skill so they’re able to take the next step in their career.
Apologies to Syracuse folks. These picks cannot foretell anything good…