NEW ORLEANS (ABC 4 Sports) - Dennis Pitta was a full blown star at BYU. Pitta caught more passes than any other player in school history (221), and earned All-American honors in 2008 and 2009.
But it's only now that Pitta is making a name for himself around the NFL. Pitta is having a breakout season and is a big reason why the Baltimore Ravens are in the Super Bowl.
Now in his third season in the NFL, including the playoffs, Pitta has caught 71 passes for 806 yards and nine touchdowns. Pitta caught a touchdown pass against New England in the AFC Championship Game. He credits much of his success to his days in Provo.
"I had a great experience at BYU," said Pitta, a 4th round draft pick by the Ravens in 2010. "I loved playing football there. I loved going to school there. I have a lot of experiences and memories that I will cherish for a long time."
Believe it or not, Pitta was actually a walk-on at BYU in 2004. But after head coach Gary Crowton switched him from wide receiver to tight end, Pitta quickly earned a scholarship and the rest is history.
BYU has a rich tradition of outstanding tight ends. Pitta is the 10th BYU tight end to earn All-American honors, and he is the 5th former Cougar tight end to play in a Super Bowl, along with Doug Jolley (2003, Oakland), Chad Lewis (2005, Eagles), Itula Mili (2006, Seattle) and Gabriel Reid (2007, Bears). But Pitta could become the first Cougar tight end to win an NFL title. Todd Christensen played tight end for the Raiders when they won the Super Bowl in 1981 and 1984, but he never played tight end for BYU.
Pitta has heard from several former players and coaches this week about playing on football's biggest stage.
"I've had a lot of people from there reach out to me these past few weeks, congratulating me and saying they're excited for me," Pitta said. "I've got a lot of great friends there and get to go back there from time to time. It's exciting to be able to represent them on this stage and in this game."
While Pitta could become a national star with a big game against the 49ers Sunday, he did earn the honor of answering perhaps the most off-the-wall question at Super Bowl Media Day.
"From one to ten, how ticklish are you?" one reporter asked.
"Ticklish?" Pitta said without skipping a beat. "I'm probably a five or a six. You know, moderately ticklish. Good question."
Pitta hopes to have the last laugh Sunday.