Spinning flag and rifle has been one of the things that I am most passionate about. I could hear the high school marching band practice while my brothers were at football practice and would say to myself, "When I get to high school, I'm going to be in the color guard." I made it happen for myself and spent all four years of high school spinning. When I got to college, I became a part of the color guard at Pitt and would get to perform in front of up to 60,000 people each week. There was nothing greater than running out of the tunnel at Heinz Field in front of a screaming crowd.
In my four years in Pitt Band, I got to have some incredible experiences. My freshman year, we traveled to Chicago by way of Notre Dame (a game which we won with a last second field goal), and capped off the year as Big East champions and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ. That has to be one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to do in my entire life. We flew out on two chartered 747's and spent 5 days in Arizona. We marched in the Fiesta Bowl Parade and went to the New Years Eve bash. The game didn't go our way, but going to a BCS bowl game is something people dream about and put on their bucket lists, so I am very proud to say that I can cross that one off and I was only 18. My sophomore year, we traveled to Louisville, and my junior year, we traveled to Niagara Falls by way of Syracuse. That trip was also a lot of fun because the legal drinking age in Canada was 19, so more of us were able to drink. I am sad to say that the only bowl game we made it to in my tenure in Pitt Band was that Fiesta Bowl, but I wouldn't have traded that game for a bowl game every year.
My love and passion for color guard led me to develop a bone spur in my right hand. This is a calcium deposit that forms as the result of extensive use and even the doctor was saying that he's only ever seen it in young people who were gymnasts and were always using their hands. I had trouble writing, typing, and even drying my hair. When I was finally done with guard is when I agreed to have the surgery to remove the spur. It took a long time to recover and unfortunately, I have never regained full strength in my right hand. As a right-handed person, my right hand should be exponentially stronger than my left hand, but the opposite has been true for me after surgery. I no longer have pain doing every day tasks, but if I overuse my hands, I feel the strain of that activity.
In October 1911, the Pitt Band marched onto the field for the very first time. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Pitt Band, so it meant there were going to be quite a celebration. In addition, the color guard is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. It started in the fall of 1986, which is even more special for me because I was born in March 1986, so my very first Pitt football season is when the color guard was introduced. I don't believe in coincidences, so this is very special for me. This past Saturday was a Pitt home game and the day where Pitt Band celebrated it's centennial. They invited all alumni band members to attend the game and perform at halftime with the current band. It just so happened, that this was the only game I was going to make it to this year, so I felt like it was something I should do. We had over 400 alumni come, which is almost double the size of the active band, so we had over 600 people on the field, making the largest P-I-T-T that has ever been on that field. Being on that field feels like it's in my blood and I never have a greater thrill than when I get to perform upon it. Although Andy couldn't be at the game with us (he had to stay home in SC), I was never more proud to know that my son was watching. He was never able to see me perform before because he wasn't born yet, so this was very special for me.
The game was against Utah, and we have a very bad history with Utah and their fans. We played them in the Fiesta Bowl I attended and even though they beat us 35-7, their fans turned very ugly and we were rushed under stadium for our own safety. Our band director was even punched in the face by a Utah fan for no reason. Last year, our season opener was against Utah. They won in OT and unlike the Fiesta Bowl, we weren't beaten, we beat ourselves (something that occurs all too often anymore). This game was our chance at redemption. We were finally playing them on home turf. The game started out very well, with Pitt going up 14-3 on two special teams touchdowns in the first quarter. Apparently the offense never got the message that we were playing a competitive game, because they never scored once. We ended up losing the game 26-14. Brady had a great time and I was hit hard with a dose of reality, knowing that this is no longer our home.
Below is a link to the video of Saturday's performance. I am on the left 40 yard line with an all gold flag (directly in front of the first T in PITT). It's hard to make me out personally (although you can in the pics above), but awesome nonetheless!
I've decided this is Andy's next car. I have a Vegas gold van with Pitt plates and this would complement it soooo nicely. To top it off, it was specially made in Detroit and has Michigan plates. Can't get more perfect for Andy than that!