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Passed over in draft, local products find NFL teams

Jason Capizzi is the tallest football player in Indiana (Pa.) history, and the 6-foot-9, 324-pounder can see all the way to the NFL.

“I got my chance,” he said. “All I wanted was a chance.”

Capizzi, who signed with the Steelers on Sunday, was among a handful of local football players who will try to make the pros the hard way — as an undrafted free agent — after being bypassed in the NFL draft.

Pitt quarterbacks Tyler Palko, a West Allegheny graduate, signed with the New Orleans Saints, while Akron quarterback Luke Getsy of Steel Valley signed with the San Francisco 49ers.

West Virginia center Dan Mozes also went undrafted and is expected to sign in the next day or two.

Capizzi, a Division II All-American offensive tackle, signed with the Steelers after 255 picks in the seven-round draft failed to produce a phone call. He and his friends endured the day-long draft at the Pine Township home since 11 in the morning.

“We watched and watched and watched and watched,” he said. “I said ‘I don’t think this is going to happen.’ ”

As the draft wound down, the Capizzis sat on the edge of their seats.

If the Bengals took him with the 253rd — third-to-last — pick, he would head to Cincinnati. If not, Capizzi would sign with the Steelers as a free agent.

When the Bengals, looking for a lineman, took a Notre Dame defensive back with their pick, there was loud cheering at the Capizzis’ home.

“Maybe it’s the best thing,” said Capizzi, who had a strong workout with the Steelers during IUP’s Pro Day. “It’s a guaranteed job. I got a little signing bonus.”

Capizzi heard from the Steelers, Eagles, Bengals, Vikings and Giants as the day moved along. He picked Pittsburgh for its opportunities on the offensive line. The Steelers didn’t draft any offensive tackles.

Palko and Getsy combined to pass for almost 15,000 yards, but they weren’t selected in a draft in which only 11 quarterbacks were picked. It has been nine years since fewer QBs were taken in a draft.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Getsy said. “(The 49ers were) a team that I had talked to a little bit, but when it came down today, they kept calling and making sure that I knew they wanted me. If I would have been drafted, hopefully, it would have been a good situation. Honestly, this was the best situation for me.”

Palko (6-2, 215), who ranks third in Pitt history with 8,343 passing yards, will try to make a Saints roster featuring Drew Brees, 13-year NFL veteran Jamie Martin and Jason Fife, a second-year player from Oregon.

Getsy (6-2, 223), who threw for more than 6,000 yards in two seasons at Akron after transferring from Pitt, will try to make a San Francisco roster that includes former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith, veteran Trent Dilfer and third-stringer Shaun Hill at quarterback.

“It’s a good situation,” Getsy said. “The organization is on the rise. There’s a lot going on there, and they’re good people. … I take it as if I was drafted by these guys, even though I wasn’t.”

Capizzi, who transferred from Pitt after one season, will be trying to join previous IUP linemen Chris Villarrial and Leander Jordan to reach the pros. He would also be one of the tallest players in league history.

“I want to make the best of it,” Capizzi said, “and prove every single person wrong who’s doubted me.”


On the line
Here are some ofthe players who signed free-agent contracts with NFL teams.
Player, college HighSchool Position NFLteam
Tyler Palko, Pitt West Allegheny QB New Orleans Saints
Luke Getsy, Akron Steel Valley QB San Francisco 49ers
Jason Capizzi, IUP Pine-Richland OT Pittsburgh Steelers
Steve Buches, Pitt Central Catholic TE St. Louis Rams

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