Okay, kids, gather 'round. It's story time!
Once upon a time, freshmen were not allowed to play major college football.
Forget Cinderella, Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. This isn't a fantasy.
Granted, it is hard to imagine, considering some of the most significant players of the sport in recent memory are that young. Alas, forty years ago, if you coached in the NCAA, it was reality.
In the decades that have come and gone since the association relaxed its policy, Pitt (1-1, 2-1) has seen a number of exceptional novices contribute to its program in their first years on the field. Last Saturday, during a 49-27 win over New Mexico at Heinz Field, wide receiver Tyler Boyd submitted his own legend.
He racked up 205 all purpose yards against the Lobos, including a 33-yard reverse for a touchdown, followed by an improbable 34-yard reception for another.
Falling backward amid stifling coverage, Boyd hauled in a desperate toss from Tom Savage to extend his team's lead as the first half expired, a catch likely to be remembered as one of the greatest—universally—of the 2013-14 season.
Perhaps that play alone would have been enough for 247Sports National True Freshman of the Week and ACC Receiver of the Week honors, both of which Boyd earned in just his second game.
This Saturday brought more of the same when the Panthers took their show on the road for the first time. Boyd performed another balancing act, staying in bounds for a 27-yard catch-and-run that put Pitt up 13-0 in the first quarter, then embarrassed safety Dwayne Norman on a 69-yard bomb to begin the second and pulled in a 14-yard dart moments before halftime to give his team some separation.
In a wild 58-55 win over Duke, Boyd became the first Pitt rookie since Antonio Bryant in 1999 to top 100 yards receiving in back to back games, finishing with 154 on eight grabs. Through just three games, he's averaging 19.6 yards per reception, and 247Sports has given him that award a second consecutive week, while the ACC has declared him its Rookie of the Week.
Dare I ask where would these Panthers be without him?
Dare I ask where would they have been without some of his predecessors?
I've thought about them all, and I've gathered five of the greatest single-game efforts by Pitt freshmen of all time, along with a few that, for better or worse, did not make the cut.
Having weighed such factors as basic stats, school records, strength of competition and long-term value of the individual performances in question, allow me to present my list: