August 21, 2012
Colts went for QB Pitcher before picking Luck No. 1
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Recently graduated SUNY Cortland quarterback Dan Pitcher, shown here consulting with a Red Dragon coach, has started a new job with the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL.
There is a misconception that on NFL Draft day the first quarterback selected by the Indianapolis Colts was Andrew Luck out of Stanford.
That’s not the case, however.
Earlier that same morning the Colts corralled another quarterback into their ever-changing family, former Cortland High and SUNY Cortland signal-caller Dan Pitcher.
His collegiate career recently completed and with aspirations to stay involved in football, Pitcher had an offer to join the Rutgers University coaching staff and was actually headed to New York City to pursue a different college coaching lead on draft day.
That’s when the Colts called to inform Pitcher that he was actually the first QB they were interested in several hours before selecting Luck. That’s when general manager Ryan Grigson made Pitcher a pitch to join the NFL, offering him a position as a scouting assistant with the Colts.
“One of my dreams has been to work in the NFL, and to be able to do that so fast was a no-brainer for me,” said Pitcher of that April 26 occasion. “It was a crazy day. I had to take a deep breath and say ‘Is this really happening’ and pinch myself.”
So that’s how Pitcher — who threw for 2,712 yards and a school record 31 touchdowns as a graduate student when the Red Dragons finished 9-2 last fall — ended up in an NFL training camp in Anderson, Ind., that the Colts wrapped up last Friday.
That’s how Pitcher — the lone quarterback selected to the 2011 Division III Academic All-America team and a first-team New Jersey Athletic Conference selection — ended up on the sidelines this past Sunday night in Pittsburgh when the Colts faced the Steelers in a preseason contest.
This season he will be traveling with the team to help organize the still photographs taken during the game that are used during sideline skull sessions to help decipher what the opposition is up to.
During the week Pitcher will stay in communication with the Indy scouts scouring the land for talent, which also means watching a lot of film. Pitcher and his co-workers will eventually create a film package on a prospect, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of that player for GM Grigson and new head coach Chuck Pagano to peruse.
For someone who majored in sports management at SUNY Cortland hoping football was in his future, this is the perfect place to be. “To get a chance to do it right away is very special, and I’m doing it with a bunch of guys who share the same passion I do,” said Pitcher.
THE DECISION TO return to SUNY Cortland to play football after an injury-plagued and uneventful few seasons at Colgate proved to be a turning point for Pitcher, who was also a record-setting quarterback at Cortland High before graduating there in 2005.
While at SUNY Cortland, Pitcher met Cincinnati Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander who was conducting a football clinic on campus. Alexander was a former offensive tackle and Academic All-American with the Red Dragons who was at Cortland from 1979-81, and then went on to coach under legends Joe Paterno at Penn State and Bo Schembechler at Michigan before embarking on an 18-year career with the Bengals.
They developed a relationship that included doing maintenance on Alexander’s Skaneateles Lake summer home along with teammates, including younger brother Matt Pitcher — another former Cortland High and SUNY Cortland offensive lineman who also graduated this past spring.
“He’s a phenomenal guy. He’s gone out of his way countless times to introduce me to people,” said Pitcher of his relationship with Alexander. “Looking back at that decision to transfer six years ago, whenever it was, I look at it as if it was meant to be. If I didn’t come to Cortland, I wouldn’t have met Paul.”
Alexander helped Pitcher meet GM Grigson, Pitcher giving the Colts his resume while attending the NFL Combine held back in February looking to make job connections. That led to the memorable phone call this past April.
“Right now, the way I look at it, I have to do whatever I can to be the best scouting assistant I can be and am open to go wherever this will take me,” said Pitcher of his career goals. “I’m extremely fortunate to have the opportunity. Whatever the next step will be, it will happen when it happens. I’m excited doing what I’m doing right now.”
THAT MEANS RUBBING shoulders with NFL players, which is not an entirely new to Pitcher. He served as an intern when the New York Jets started spending their summers on the SUNY Cortland campus for preseason camp.
“This isn’t my first time around professional athletes. From that (Jets) experience I was able to learn what it is to be around those guys, how to conduct myself around them, how to maintain a professional attitude,” said Pitcher. “Originally, three or four years ago with the Jets, you’re a little star-struck, but at the end of the day they’re just regular guys like you and me. They just happen to be very good at the game.”
That includes Luck, who has already distinguished himself as a deserving No. 1 draft selection after two impressive preseason games with the Colts.
“I think, mentally, he’s way ahead of the game when you compare him to most rookies,” are Pitcher’s impression of Luck. “It will be fun to watch him and see what he can do this year.”
Not that Pitcher wouldn’t love to trade places with Luck. “Of course the itch is still there, but it’s a new phase of my life,” said Pitcher of the urge to keep taking snaps.
“I’ve been blessed with a lot of things in my life,” he adds. “I’m 5 foot-11 and slow, and that doesn’t bode well for playing anywhere after college. That football is still a part of my life is huge. It’s in a different capacity, but I’m still doing what I love.”
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