It was easy to tell that Greg Cross hadn’t ever experienced anything like it before. After Pittsburgh’s Blue-Gold scrimmage on Saturday, he walked through the door from the Pitt locker room to the Heinz Field press conference area, where tons of Pittsburgh media waited. He took one look at the group, his eyes bulged, and he nearly went back into the locker room.
Later on, though, Cross sat poised with a jumble of microphones and cameras in his face and calmly and thoroughly answered every question thrown at him.
That’s been symbolic of Cross’ performance as Pitt’s fourth and most intriguing quarterback of the spring. While he was a little flustered at first, but with a little help from his fellow quarterbacks and his coach, he’s now settling in.
“At the beginning, I was a little shaky,” Cross said. “I was trying to do too much and trying to show what I can do instead of just taking my time and learning.”
His overexertion led to getting limited reps in both practice and in Pitt’s two scrimmages leading up to the spring game on Saturday.
“After the first couple weeks [of spring practice], I took a step back,” he said. “I listened to coach [Matt Cavanaugh] and the other quarterbacks and just learned. And I’m learning so much, I’m just starting to show a little. I’m just taking my time. I’m not really 100 percent right now, but I think I performed a little [Saturday].”
Even teammate Bill Stull, Pitt’s top quarterback, saw he performed in Saturday’s scrimmage, citing the game-like situations and ball movement as potential catalysts for Cross.
“He made some extra plays out there,” Stull said. “Moving the ball helps a lot. Instead of only moving the ball in team tempo [during practice], now we’re actually able to move it. Greg got to make some plays throwing the ball, and he showed he can run the ball. We all saw that.”
That was a 29-yard third-down run that moved the chains for a first down. After being sacked by defensive end Tony Tucker on the previous play, Cross felt the pressure around him on the next and took off into the open field, which Cross says his coaches give him the permission to do.
“If I get the opportunity [to run], they told me just go,” Cross said. “If it’s there, take it. Don’t hold back. I’m just having fun. I’m just going.”
Cross ran five times on Saturday for 33 net yards and completed 2 of 5 passes for 42 yards. While he admits he’s not yet where he wants to be as a player, he’s as eager as anyone to get there.
“I’m hungry. I want to start the season,” Cross said. “There’s still a lot of learning I got to do, but you know the offense, I’m still learning it, watching a lot of film. Coach Cav told me really not to rush, so I’m just taking my time and that’s what I’m doing.
“This [was] my first time in a big stadium with a crowd like this, so I’m starting to get more comfortable and more relaxed,” Cross added. “I’m starting to have fun.”