At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and with quickness like a deer, Greg Cross was quite appealing to the Pitt football coaches looking for a change-of-pace quarterback, one who could run with the football as effectively as he can throw it.
And wow did he make a big splash in his debut with Pittsburgh. In the third game of the 2008 season against Iowa, Greg Cross stepped onto grass at Heinz Field and went 17 yards for a touchdown on a quarterback draw on his first play.
Unfortunately, he also played in Game 5 at South Florida and fumbled the snap in the Wildcat. He ran four times for 15 yards overall that season and didn't play again during the remaining games that season. But after moving to wide receiver and taking a redshirt this past fall, Cross is ready to make an impact.
He's had a solid spring so far and caught two passes for 80 yards in the two scrimmages, including a 65-yard touchdown reception. He also took a toss on a reverse and threw a 65-yard scoring pass to open Saturday's scrimmage.
"He's really come on, and he showed last year on the scout team that he had an ability to make a catch and make guys miss,'' Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "And now that he's gotten a good feel for what we're doing on offense, you're starting to see those skills carry over. So, he'll be fine.
"He's an athlete. He can run. He's tough, and guys like that ... his desire to be good and help this team win is as strong as anyone here. A guy with the wrong attitude, we brought him in here and were going to use him for all this Wildcat stuff and it didn't work out, anyone else would have thrown the towel in.
"But Greg didn't throw the towel in and move on,'' Wannstedt said. "He hung with us, and those who stay will play. That's why we redshirted him last year. We moved him to wide receiver and wanted to give him a chance to learn the position. He did a great job, and now he's ready to contribute.''
Cross nearly had a setback two practices before the second scrimmage when he got twisted up trying to make a spectacular sideline catch and went down on the turf. The injury turned out to be a sprained toe, and while it's been painful it hasn't hampered his progress.
"My toe has been bothering me a little bit, but you know, once you get out here and run around you forget about anything else,'' Cross said. "I got in and got some treatment afterward and again (Friday), and it's all right. It's a little sore, but it's all right. And I'll be ready to go for the final week here.''
This is a big week for Cross, redshirt freshman Devin Street and redshirt sophomore Cam Saddler, the top three wideouts competing with junior Jon Baldwin and redshirt sophomore Mike Shanahan for playing time. Baldwin and Shanahan are the starters.
Redshirt frosh Ed Tinker has been set back by a broken hand this spring, but he should be ready for the regular season. Todd Thomas, Andrew Carswell, Salath Williams and Kevin Weatherspoon will join the group this fall as well. Cross, Saddler and Street have all had a solid spring camp.
"It's going real good for me so far, but I owe it all to the coaches and my teammates,'' Cross said. "The biggest thing for me to focus on right now is being consistent. I'll get my chances if I keep doing my best and working hard. It was tough for me, in the beginning, because I never played receiver before.
"But I've been committed to this team from the outset, and I never wavered from that. And with the help I've received from the coaches, day in and day out, on the field and in the film room. So, on my days off, I spent a lot of time in the film room and worked hard with my teammates, and here I am now.
"During the season on the scout team, I went out every day ready to complete against our first team,'' Cross added. "I didn't want it to be a setback for me. I worked hard to get our players ready each week, but I wanted to get myself ready to contribute this spring and next season when I get the chance.''
And since it's been a while between games for Cross, some believe it's about time he finally got a chance to contribute to the Panthers.