Former Pitt linebacker John Petrishen makes the most of his second chances


Hannah Wilson | Assistant Visual Editor

Linebacker John Petrishen (0) catches a football during NFL Pro Day on Wednesday.

By Brian Sherry, Assistant Sports Editor

Former Pitt linebacker John Petrishen hasn’t had the most normal career path. Petrishen started his college career at Penn State as a safety in 2015, but injuries derailed his 2016 season and severely hampered his development. Petrishen transferred to Pitt in 2019 and made a major impact, earning an All-ACC honorable mention and contributing to the ACC championship roster in 2021

Now, on the cusp of earning a spot in the pros, Petrishen is grateful for his turbulent career. The former Pitt linebacker said that his early struggles prepared him for the stress that comes with trying to go pro.

“I think with the adversity I went through at Penn State, going through injury after season ending injury, I think that really prepared me for this process,” Petrishen said. “Because, if I didn’t go through that, this would be really hard emotionally and mentally for me”

But the struggles are not over for the former Panther linebacker, as he still needs to make it to a professional league. Petrishen attempted to turn pro last season after he ran out of eligibility at Pitt, but to no avail.

Petrishen attended his second Pitt Pro Day on Wednesday, as he attended last year before going unsigned. The former Panther linebacker wasn’t planning on coming back to another Pro Day, but said his new agent convinced him to return.

“I actually had an agent switch over the past few weeks and my new agent suggested it. I thought I was ready, I’ve been running fast, jumping high everyday,” Petrishen said.

Coming back to Pro Day was challenging for Petrishen, as the short notice made it difficult to practice the drills. But Petrishen said he still felt confident coming into Wednesday.

“I haven’t been practicing the exact specific drills,” Petrishen said. “Obviously, I never thought I would have to get in a 40 [yard dash] stance again. But I was like ‘You know what? Let’s do it’. I feel like I could put up good numbers.”

Even with the difficulties of returning to Pro Day, Petrishen said he was happy with his performance, as he met all of his goals.

“The goal was to show up five pounds heavier this year and put up the same or better numbers [than last year] to show that I could keep that athletic ability at a bigger size,” Peterson said. “And I felt like it did that.

The former Pitt linebacker improved on several of his drills from last year. Petrishen hit 39 inches on his vertical jump, which is .5 inches better than his performance last year. He also showcased his speed on Wednesday, running a 4.60 second 40 yard dash and a 6.91 second three-cone drill.

Petrishen’s effort in the face of adversity has earned him the respect of his former teammates. Fellow NFL prospect safety Erick Hallett said he respected Petrishen for never giving up.

“Never give up on your dreams,” Hallett said. “I think he’s living proof of that. You gotta keep trying till it’s over with.”

But the question remains if Petrishen’s effort is enough to get him in the NFL. With most teams focused on the Draft, it’s difficult for untested free agents to gain a team’s attention. Petrishen said momentum is key to staying in the NFL’s spotlight.

“The name of the game this time is keeping momentum and staying relevant,” Petrishen said. “There’s no better place to workout than in front of 31 or 31 NFL teams, there’s no better opportunity than that. Hopefully I checked all the boxes they were looking for and my name will be on the top of their desk is what I am hoping for.”

Even if Petrishen does not make the NFL, he is still looking for other opportunities to go pro. Petrishen said he is open to playing in a smaller football league, like the CFL or XFL.

“Going into last year’s Draft, I always told myself I would never do that,” Petrishen said. “XFL, USFL, I’m all in now. I’m willing to play in that now and I would love to. I just want to play football and I think it’s a great opportunity.”

While Petrishen is open to the idea of playing football in a different league, he still holds on to his NFL ambitions. After all the ups and downs of his career, Petrishen said he will never give up on his dreams.

“I think anybody who’s in my position wouldn’t give up,” Petrishen said. “People say it’s really hard right before you get to that new level. I’m so close and I am not going to give up until I make it and stay there for a little bit.”