Play Or Prep For Combine? Romeus Must Examine Future

Stephen ThomasContributor ISeptember 15, 2010

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 02:  Adam Froman #9 of the Louisville Cardinals is sacked by Greg Romeus #91  of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the Big East Conference game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 2, 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Panthers defensive end Greg Romeus senior season took a huge hit this week, as, due to a bulging disc in his back, Romeus opted for back surgery, putting him out until, at least, November.

Romeus missed the majority of training camp and was rendered by the Utah offensive line during the Panthers’ opening-week (upset?) 27-24 overtime loss to the Utes.  Romeus missed the following week’s home game against New Hampshire.

What makes the injury more devastating to Romeus personally is the fact that his red shirt season was used when he was a true freshman, meaning if the defensive end can’t come back this season, his collegiate career would have come to an end with a four-assisted-tackles performance in the Salt Lake City loss.

Coming into the 2010 season, there was a lot of talk of concerning Romeus’ pro potential, which may be in question.  This is contingent on the real reason for the immediacy of the decision to opt for surgery — is the injury very serious, or do doctors feel it is reasonable that he can return for November? 

With the amount of hype the Panthers had coming into the season, and considering the amount of talent still on the field, there’s a very real possibility Pitt could be contending for a Big East title come late October/early November.  Starting Oct. 30, Pitt will only be playing their third conference game with a home matchup against Louisville.  The Panthers have the following weekend off, and march on the rest of the regular season exclusively with conference rivals — at UConn Nov. 11, at Southern Florida Nov. 20, the last home game of the season (and of Romeus’ career) against arch rival West Virginia (currently ranked 21 in both the AP and Coaches polls) Nov. 26, and finish the season at Cincinnati Dec. 4. 

However, if Romeus can’t return at a high level this season, I can only urge him to rest, get better, and prepare for the NFL combine.  Due to the opening-week loss to the Utes, the Panthers excused themselves from the national title picture.  Whether or not many thought Pitt could win a national title this season, there was a chance things could fit together for them — tough out-of-conference schedule (at Utah, home versus the U of Miami, at Notre Dame), the most talent in the Big East, and frankly, finding themselves in a BCS conference. Objectively speaking, there’s no way one could say Boise State, a team most people pick as their BCS buster for 2010, has a tougher schedule than the Panthers.  Now, Pitt’s playing for a conference title and a BCS bowl birth.  Aside from Romeus, the Panthers’ front-line talent is all underclassmen.  The team should be gearing towards a title run in 2011 at this point, and unless Romeus can help his draft stock, he’ll be playing for pride the remainder of the season.

If I had the opportunity to speak to Greg directly, here's what I would say to him — in life, while you're friends are very important to you, you have to make sure you're still looking out for yourself first, because if you're not, you can't guarantee anyone else will. Your teammates and your coaches are going to be urging you to come back and play this season like you wouldn't believe.  However, I feel a majority of them will have "the team's" interests in mind, not necessarily your interests. If the NFL is your end game, I don't think you should jeopardize it by playing before you're ready and potentially hurting your value.  Further, when you made the decision to come to Pitt, you had your choice of schools, and not only did you go to a program with a very nice lineage, but you went to a great academic institution as well. If playing in the NFL is something you would consider to be a cherry on the top of a fine career, but are prepared for life without it, then by all means, play. 

Romeus’ school-sponsored web site,, lists two-dozen pre-season honors for the 6’6” defensive end, highlighted by being named to The Sporting News’ All Big East team, second team All-American, and No. 20 ranked player in college football.  Romeus was also named No. 4 to’s “Big East’s 25 Best.”

These honors come on the heels of a phenomenal 2009 season, where Romeus garnered a Co-Defensive Player of the Year award in the Big East, Tom Hendricks Award finalist, and was named the Pitt defensive MVP.