To those who know him well, Dennis Pitta is not shocking anyone by being the first Moorpark alumnus to appear in football's biggest game.
When he takes the field for the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on Sunday, Pitta will be right where he is supposed to be.
Moorpark High School’s head football coach Tim Lins, for example, isn't shocked.
“Not really,” said Lins, when asked if Pitta’s emergence this season has been a surprise. “He was still growing when he graduated and you could tell he was going to continue to grow and develop.”
Pitta, now in his third NFL season, caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season. In Baltimore’s three playoff wins, Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco connected 10 times with Pitta for 137 yards and two TDs.
More importantly, it seems as if each catch Pitta made in the postseason has been a huge play in the game.
Pitta graduated from Moorpark High School in 2003 after starring in football, track and basketball. He was also a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete.
Lins said Pitta was 6-foot-3 and around 180 pounds when he played wide receiver and cornerback for the Musketeers.
“Dennis was a remarkable young man,” Lins said. “He was a 4.0 student. He was an honors student. He was an excellent football player. He participated in track; He was an excellent hurdler. He played basketball.
“He was very involved in the community. He was very involved in volunteering his time. He was just a remarkable young man.”
Pitta went on to BYU, where he was a walk-on (a non-scholarship player) at first.
After catching 17 passes for 176 yards and two TDs as a freshman at BYU in the fall of 2004, Pitta went on a two-year mission in the Dominican Republic for the LDS Church.
He came back and set records at BYU.
From 2007-2009, Pitta had 59, 83 and 62 receptions for the Cougars. He had more than 800 receiving yards all three years, including 1,083 his junior year. He had 21 touchdown receptions at BYU.
Pitta, whose father, Dennis, played linebacker at Cal during the late 1960's, holds the career mark with 221 receptions for BYU.
Pitta was taken by Baltimore in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft with the 114th overall pick. The Ravens actually took another tight end, Ed Dickson, in the third round.
As was the case in college, Pitta has exceeded expectations in the pros from those who didn’t know him as well as Lins and the people of Moorpark.
In his first season with the Ravens, Pitta played in 11 games and had one reception. He didn’t start any games at tight end. His second season, 2011, he started twice while playing all 16 games and caught 40 passes for 405 yards and three TDs.
“One thing for sure is that Dennis would do everything work-wise to make sure that he improved,” said Lins. “So, you could kind of see that he was going to grow into his frame a little bit and he certainly was going to work hard enough to continue to develop.”
Pitta has indeed gotten bigger. He is listed at 6-4, 245 pounds on one NFL site and 6-5, 247 on another. But in a way, that seems to make sense. Pitta continues to grow.
Pitta is the first player from Moorpark High School to participate in the Super Bowl. Chastin West was on the practice squad of the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl-winning team from 2010.
"We're all very excited about Dennis,” Lins said. “We're all very proud of what he's done.
"It’s extra special to see a guy that was a very good athlete, but also a quality young man. It’s exciting to watch him compete at the highest level.”
*Correction: Pitta graduated from MHS in 2003.