Pitt legend Jimbo Covert selected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Jim Covert celebrates the retirement of his number, 75, from Pitt Football. Heather Tennant | Staff Photographer

By Trent Leonard, Sports Editor

Pitt football legend Jimbo Covert, who played offensive tackle for the Panthers from 1978-82 and then for the Chicago Bears from 1983-90, was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Wednesday morning.

Hall of Fame President David Baker gave Covert the call around 8 a.m. EST. Covert, who was out in San Francisco, picked up the phone around 5 a.m. PST and expressed disbelief at the news.

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I’m shocked.”

While the announcement may have come as a surprise to the 59-year-old Covert, it was an outcome expected by the Pitt, Chicago and general football fans who witnessed his prowess and had been clammering for years to get him enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Jimbo will receive this highly deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement. “He has been a Hall of Famer in every aspect of his life. Jimbo sets a tremendous example for our current players. On a personal note, I have greatly appreciated his support and guidance during my time at Pitt. On behalf of Panthers everywhere, congratulations Jimbo!”

Covert, a native of nearby Beaver County, initially played defensive tackle for the Panthers before switching to the other side of the ball. He enjoyed a standout final three seasons, allowing just three sacks over that span and becoming a consensus All-American as a senior. His No. 75 jersey was retired by the team in 2015.

The Panthers went 31-5 in Covert’s three years as a starter, never finishing a season ranked worse than No. 10. He spent those seasons blocking for a teammate who he’ll join in Canton — Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. Together, that duo led the last great era of Pitt football — not since their graduation have the Panthers finished a season ranked No. 10 or better.

Covert went on to play eight seasons for Chicago, including the team’s dominant run in 1985 that ended with a 1986 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s and Hall of Fame teammate Walter Payton once called him “the best offensive tackle in the NFL.”

Covert’s selection makes him the ninth Panther to join the Hall of Fame ranks, joining defensive end Chris Doleman (2012), tight end Mike Ditka (1988), running back Tony Dorsett (1994), offensive lineman Russ Grimm (2010), linebacker Rickey Jackson (2010), quarterback Dan Marino (2005), running back Curtis Martin (2012) and linebacker Joe Schmidt (1973).

Only three other schools — USC, Notre Dame and Ohio State — can claim more Pro Football Hall of Famers, while Michigan also has nine.

“The Panthers are roaring with pride today with the announcement that Jimbo Covert will be enshrined in Canton,” Pitt Director of Athletics Heather Lyke said in a statement. “Jimbo truly represents the very best of the University of Pittsburgh.”

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