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Penn Hills' Anthony Morelli decides on Pitt

Visit to Heinz Field seals deal for recruit

Thursday, August 21, 2003

By Mike White, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Anthony Morelli had Pitt at the top of his college list for a while. But what really sold him on the Panthers was, of all things, a Steelers game.

Penn Hills quarterback Anthony Morelli has made a verbal commitment to Pitt. (Lake Fong, Post-Gazette)

Yes, the black and gold helped sway Morelli to the blue and gold.

Morelli, a senior at Penn Hills High School who is ranked among the top quarterbacks in the country, made a verbal commitment to Pitt yesterday morning. Pitt fought off colleges across the country to get him. Notre Dame was his other choice, but Morelli also had scholarship offers from Florida State, Tennessee and UCLA, among others.

"Pitt was always there with me," Morelli said, "and then my dad and I went to the Steelers-Eagles game last Saturday [at Heinz Field]."

And that's where Morelli was sure Pitt was it.

"As soon as I got out of the car, people were yelling my name and asking me where I was going to college," Morelli said. "So many people knew me. I thought, 'Wow, this is great.' Then I got in the stadium and saw the new field. I thought it was awesome. I could just see myself dropping back and throwing on it.

"The fans made me realize how much they really liked me. From the time I got out of my car until I got home, I just kept thinking, 'This is where I want to be.' "

Morelli had considered visiting Notre Dame this weekend, granting a wish from his grandmother. But Morelli, his father, Greg, and his grandmother had a talk Tuesday night.

"She said she wanted to leave everything up to me," Morelli said.

And the grandson was sure he wanted to go to Pitt. So he arrived for a Penn Hills practice at 7:30 a.m. yesterday and told Coach Neil Gordon he wanted to commit to Pitt. Then Morelli informed Pitt Coach Walt Harris of his commitment.

"I really like the coaching staff at Pitt and Coach Harris. I think he can make my game a lot better," Morelli said. "I like all the other coaches, too. I feel real comfortable around them. Their facilities are great, too. I was at UCLA, and Pitt's facilities are a lot better.

"Plus, it's good for my family. My dad and I have been real close my whole life."

Morelli's father said a few weeks ago he wanted his son to wait until September or October before deciding. The elder Morelli wanted to see what unfolded with the quarterback situation at Pitt.

"He wanted to see if Tyler [Palko] or any other quarterback was redshirted," Anthony said. "But it really doesn't matter. You're going to have to compete against those guys sometime. You have to compete no matter where you go. So I just said, 'Let's get this over with.' "

Morelli is 6 feet 4, 210 pounds with a strong arm. Rivals100.com ranks him the No. 2 quarterback in the country, theInsiders.com has him No. 3 and Super Prep magazine ranks him No. 6. Last season, he completed 75 of 151 passes for 1,770 yards and 20 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions. He has been a starter since his freshman season and is 172 of 406 for 3,595 yards and 41 touchdowns in his career.

Morelli is the fifth player from the WPIAL class of 2004 to choose Pitt. But he has not scored high enough yet on the SAT to be eligible as a freshman at Pitt.

"I'd like to compete for the starting job next year," Morelli said. "If I don't get it, maybe I'll redshirt, keep learning and keep going at it every day."


Mike White can be reached at mwhite@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1975.

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