Former Pitt receiver Shanahan returns as graduate assistant

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Former Pitt receiver Shanahan returns as graduate assistant

By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

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Former Pitt wide receiver Mike Shanahan has had an active several years since graduating from Pitt in 2013. He went undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft, worked out for several NFL teams and was eventually cut from the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now, he finds himself back at his alma mater, working as a graduate assistant for Pat Narduzzi and his staff. The Pitt News recently spoke to Shanahan about his journey back to Pittsburgh.

The Pitt News: So you graduated in 2013, went undrafted and were doing workouts over the summer for teams. What was that process like?

Mike Shanahan: I signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent. I went through all the OTAs [organized team activities] up there, I practiced the first few weeks in camp, then they cut me. Tampa Bay picked me up, then they cut me. Then nothing happened over the next couple months. In January, I signed a contract with the [Canadian Football League team] Montreal Alouettes and went to their camp in May, but it didn’t work out. I thought about what I wanted to do, until eventually Coach [Paul] Chryst let me volunteer with the team. I worked with the receivers then, then coach Narduzzi gave me a graduate assistant spot in January.

TPN: Did you approach Pitt about coming on as a graduate assistant, or did they contact you?

MS: I contacted Chryst — I forgot to add that while I was waiting around, I was at Norwin High School, where I’m from, coached basketball and was the head lacrosse coach in the Spring. That’s when I figured out I wanted to do coaching, and see if I liked college coaching. That’s when I reached out to Chryst.

TPN: You’ve then worked under Chryst and current head coach Pat Narduzzi. How do they compare, in their coaching and leadership styles? 

MS: I would say Chryst and Narduzzi are different in some cases. Chryst is just a really great guy, an offensive coach, and he really is a great leader. Coach Narduzzi’s the same. I’d say their approach is a little different, obviously with Narduzzi being active on Twitter is a little different. I’m excited to learn from Narduzzi on this staff.

TPN: What have been your duties and responsibilities since then?

MS: These past couple of weeks, I’ve been helping out with recruiting, going on official visits on weekends. They called us “troubleshooters” to make sure that everything goes smoothly. I’ve been watching some film on recruits with coaches and trying to learn what they look for and what they like. Now we’re getting to putting in the offense and having general discussions about what we’re leaning to in games.

TPN: What are your thoughts on the incoming recruiting class? Obviously they’ve signed earlier this week.

MS: I’m excited. I think we have a lot of good guys. Some guys will be great additions to the program. I’m looking forward to getting to know them even more, especially on offense. I’m just excited we have guys that want to be here and are excited about Pitt, which is the biggest thing for me.

TPN: You may be coaching some players that were your teammates for a year or two. Will that be strange for you?

MS: That was one of my concerns coming in last year, I think the players now handle it really well. [Laughs] I’m not the one to be giving out orders or be that type of guy. I just try to stay in my role and be there for them. I like to think, when I played, they respected me as a player. I think I have a good relationship with a lot of the guys, there’s a respect there. They respect that I’m trying to get into coaching.

TPN: Does this mean you want to get into a career in coaching, or is there a different plan for you?

MS: I believe this is what I want to do. I don’t have another plan right now, which might be bad, but I’m invested in this. I know it’s a big commitment, so I’m willing to do it. Who knows what will happen down the road. I could also see myself teaching and coaching at the high school level. But right now, I’m invested in this and excited to have an opportunity here. I definitely want to make a career out of coaching.

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