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Much Deserved Recognition

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Last week, as football training camp came to a close, Head Coach Paul Chryst was able to award scholarships to four Pitt walk-ons. 

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Tales about the trials of football walk-ons go back before the often-told story of "Rudy." It's hard not to have respect for players that join a football program for nothing more but the love of the game, and the love of a school.

So, when you hear of a hard-working walk-on earning a scholarship, it is worthy of taking at least a few moments to recognize their dedication and appreciate what they do for Pitt football.

Last week, Kevin Barthelemy, Mark Giubilato, Chris Wuestner and Matt Yoklic were each awarded a scholarship by head coach Paul Chryst. Each situation is different for these four players, but the news was just as exciting in every case.

"I was hoping for it, obviously," said redshirt sophomore fullback Giubilato. "It's something that kids without a scholarship work hard for every day. It's kind of an uphill battle, but at the same time, it makes you really appreciate football. It is still surreal to me at the moment. It's a long road but I'm pretty happy."

As someone in the trenches with the team every day, no one was happier than Coach Chryst to have the ability to offer these scholarships. He spoke of it the following day.

"I'm fired up," said Chryst. "It's pretty cool. They all, obviously, in their own way earned it. I think what was neat about it is the response from the other guys. It was genuine. It was a pretty good moment last night.

"You love rewarding guys. That's real. Those are real dollars that are saved and they went and earned it. Any time you go and earn something, there's great satisfaction. That part is neat."

Most walk-ons have scholarship offers from other schools, but these four had a deep desire to suit up for the Panthers.

"I really didn't want to go anywhere else other than here," said Yoklic, a redshirt junior punter. "I could have gone a few other places, but I knew Pitt was right for me. I'm glad I chose Pitt. It's definitely a good spot for me."

Giubilato had scholarship offers from other FBS programs, but had his heart set on Pittsburgh.

"I would have had regrets the rest of my life if I hadn't come here," he stated. "I wanted to come here since the first time I visited in the 11th grade."

Despite being members of the starting lineup on special teams, Barthelemy, a long snapper, and Yoklic, Pitt's punter, were surprised by the honor.

"The opportunity to walk on was pretty cool so earning a scholarship makes it that much better," said Barthelemy. "It was a surprise. It means a lot to know that the coaches see how hard we work and to respect that is pretty nice."

Perhaps the most surprising scholarship awarded, however, was to Wuestner, a freshman walk-on wide receiver from Carlisle, Pa. Since his arrival, those in attendance at training camp have asked who the kid in the No. 17 jersey was who appeared to catch everything. After three weeks of camp, he had convinced the coaching staff that he was the real deal.

"He earned it and you appreciate that," Chryst said. "He fought through a lot and it's pretty cool."

"It's crazy how a few guys go down and they call your name and you had to know plays," Wuestner said. "You just go out there and try to work hard, learn the offense and do what you can. I'm just out there working hard and trying to get better every day."

Despite earning a scholarship, these former walk-ons are well aware that they are never able to rest on their previous accomplishments.

"When he (Chryst) told me that I earned a scholarship it really was the culmination of a lot of things but I realize it isn't the end of the path, it is the beginning. I have to keep working hard for myself and our team."

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