That day has arrived, as Dorin Dickerson became the first Pittsburgh tight end since Ditka to be named to the 25-player All-America Team selected by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). The team was announced Saturday on ABC-TV. Ditka received the honor in 1960.
"I never formally met Coach Ditka, but he came to talk at a team meeting last year,'' Dickerson said. "And it's just (unbelievable). You see him on TV all the time, and there he was. He was a real laid-back guy and pretty cool. ... He's in both Halls of Fame, and it's just a great honor to be mentioned with him.''
This is the third time in the past four years a Pitt player has been selected to the FWAA All-America Team. Current NFL linebackers H.B. Blades (2006) and Scott McKillop (2008) were previously honored by the organization.
Dickerson, a native of Imperial, Pa. and graduate of West Allegheny High, was named an All-American after catching 45 passes for 508 yards (11.3 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns. His 10 scores are a single-season record for a Pitt tight end.
Among the country's tight ends, Dickerson's 10 touchdowns rank second. He has caught at least one touchdown in seven different games this year, including a career-high three at Buffalo.
"It really was a blessing for Coach Cignetti to come here,'' Dickerson said. "For me and Bill. It was such a blessing. I tell him that all the time. He won't take the credit, but he deserves about 90 percent of it. ... The stuff that he's done with me, Baldwin, Dion, Bill, it's incredible.
"Coach Angelichio taught me how to play the position, because I had no idea. I was just an athlete, but ... Coach Cignetti gave me an opportunity. Coach Cignetti saw that I was an athlete, and he gave me an opportunity. And that's all I needed, so I'm just so, so blessed that he came here.''
Fifth-year senior quarterback Bill Stull, Dickerson's roommate and best friend, also was thrilled that Cignetti joined the Panthers this past year.
"Coach Cignetti saw something in Dorin that fit his style of play and really utilized his athleticism and found matchups no matter where he played,'' Stull said. "Those defenders, going against them was like stealing. ... Putting Dorin and his athleticism and speed up against a linebacker or safety wasn't fair to the, but it worked great for Dorin and Pitt.''
Dickerson was a wideout when he arrived at Pitt as a five-star recruit from the Panthers' back yard and was a tremendous signing for the coaching staff. But after playing wideout, running back and eventually moving to defense as a linebacker, Dickerson was changed to tight end before spring drills in 2008.
He struggled early and finished with just 13 catches and two touchdowns that fall, much more production than one as a frosh with no scores (one rushing) and none as a sophomore. Then came the offensive explosion this year.
"To go through the stuff that I went through, not playing and stuff, it was all worth it,'' Dickerson said. "I bounced around at all those positions, and ... I never put my hand on the ground in my whole life. And a year later, I'm an All-American. I pride myself in how I practice and how I play, so it's a great honor.
"There were a lot of people out there who didn't think I could do it, too, so that's what I like about it. That's what makes it a lot sweeter. I like to prove people wrong, and that's what I went out there and did this year. A lot of people that were saying (things), they're not really saying anything now.''
In addition to his All-America honor, Dickerson was a finalist for the 2009 John Mackey Award, annually presented to the country’s top tight end, and selected first-team All-Big East Conference.
"Coming out of West Allegheny, Dorin Dickerson could've played college football anywhere in the country,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He chose to stay home and build something special at the University of Pittsburgh.
"When our future players walk past his plaque on the Pitt All-America Wall, we can point to him as being not only an outstanding football player, but also as a person who was tremendously committed to both Pitt and Pittsburgh.''
After walking past those plaques for four years now, Dickerson said it would be
For more than six decades the FWAA has selected an All-America Team with the help of its members and an All-America Committee, which represents all the regions in the country. It is the second-longest continuously published All-America team in major college football, originating in 1944.
Dickerson and the Panthers are preparing for the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl. Pitt (9-3, 5-2 Big East) will play North Carolina (8-4, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) on December 26 in Charlotte, N.C. The game will be a national ESPN telecast at 4:30 p.m.