Fox Chapel grad Wirginis plays key role for hometown Panthers
Fox Chapel grad Quintin Wirginis is living the dream of a Pittsburgh-born football fan. Growing up just minutes from Heinz Field, Wirginis, a reserve Pitt linebacker, spent many Saturdays cheering on the hometown Panthers from the stands. Now a junior, Wirginis has the best seat in the house.
“It’s awesome. I grew up rooting for (Pitt) and going to games at Heinz Field,” said Wirginis, who graduated from Fox Chapel in 2014. “I remember going to the Backyard Brawl and watching Darrelle Revis. It’s awesome to be here right now and being able to play under the names of guys like that.”
Wirginis, a 6-foot-2, 245-pounder, is beginning to make a name for himself. He stepped up early in the fourth quarter against Penn State when he sacked Trace McSorley for a 10-yard loss on a key third-down play to stop a rally. The sack forced Penn State to kick a 38-yard field goal.
“It was wild,” Wirginis said of playing Penn State. “The atmosphere aside, the (former) players and looking over at them and being able to play before legends like (Mike) Ditka and (Bill) Fralic. It’s an honor.”
Wirginis has two sacks through six games for a defense that is ranked No. 7 in sacks (19) in Division I FBS. He has 12 tackles (10 solo) from his middle linebacker position.
“Quintin is an incredibly explosive football player, which makes him a great blitzer for us in defensive third-down packages,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “His athleticism allows us to blitz him from numerous different places.”
Dropping into coverage is something Wirginis has no problem doing. Before former Fox Chapel coach Eric Ravotti took over, Wirginis played strong safety for the Foxes. After Ravotti coached him for one season, the former Penn State and Steelers linebacker pulled him aside after his sophomore season with a change of plans.
“(Ravotti’s) first year was my sophomore year and after my sophomore year he said that you’re a linebacker and you’re going to play linebacker in college,” said Wirginis, who is majoring in communications and rhetoric. “I have a lot of faith in what he has done for me.”
After a standout junior season at Fox Chapel, Wirginis went into the summer of his senior season the No. 33-ranked player in the state by Scout.com. But then, the unexpected happened. An injury robbed Wirginis of his senior season.
He suffered a lisfranc injury where one of the bones in the middle part of his right foot was fractured.
But with a solid performances at Pitt’s summer camp, former Pitt coach Paul Chryst offered the die-hard Panthers fan a scholarship. After Wirginis’ freshman season, Chryst was off to coach at Wisconsin and Pitt hired Narduzzi. While Wirginis was confident in his abilities, he was still worried how Narduzzi would use him or if he would even fit into the former Michigan State defensive coordinator’s scheme.
“There’s always that thought. I spent the whole year trying to impress (one) coaching staff, and now I have to impress (a new) coaching staff,” Wirginis said describing the coaching change. “I (just) come in, do my best and it’s worked out.”
Wirginis turned enough heads to appear in 13 games as a sophomore. He recorded 17 tackles (12 solo), including one pass breakup, and has continually earned the trust of his coaches and teammates.
“Quintin is an extremely intelligent,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a great kid to have around our program — on and off the field.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.