Pitt receiver Devin Street was always around this spring. He was there to give his teammates a ride, to pick them up, to take them to their tutor, to help with a team book report, to get in an extra lift in the weight room, and to set an example.
Street decided this offseason that he was going to be a leader -- and one of the best receivers in the country.
“I try to seize the day,” he said. “As soon as I wake up, I’m always trying to think of ways to better myself, whether it be in football or outside of football. The biggest thing as we go through everyday life is growth and opportunities and learning through things. That’s the biggest thing I’m going through right now. When I get over here, it’s a mindset where I’m coming in and going to work and really fine-tuning my game and being able to bond and spend time with the guys around here and just feed off of them and try to make this whole team better.”
With a new quarterback, a new starting running back, and new roles for the offensive linemen, Street has become one of the most recognizable faces of the Panthers’ offense. With the graduation of receiver Mike Shanahan, who played opposite Street last year, Street will be the focus of opposing defenses until another dependable receiver emerges.
He started all 13 games last year and led the team with 73 catches for 975 yards and five touchdowns. He finished second in the Big East in receptions per game and had three 100-yard receiving games. Despite those accomplishments, those within the program say there’s another level he can reach, and Street took steps this spring toward getting there.
“I think he’s a much better player right now than he was last year, and he’s a much better teammate and much better leader,” said offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph. “I think he’s had as much growth as anyone we’ve had here. You can see his approach to a practice or to a play. He provided that consistency and accountability. He didn’t do it with words, he did with actions and how he performs. I’m excited for him. I love his approach. He has the same urgency about what he’s doing and his own preparation, but also serving as an example, if it’s a matter of going in and digging out a guy on a block, you see him go after it with the same passion as when we’re calling his number in a pass route. From your senior group, that’s what you hope and that’s what he’s delivering now.”
Street was a second-team All-Big East selection last year but said his goals for this fall include surpassing the 1,000-yard receiving mark, winning the ACC, and finishing atop the national rankings in receiving.
“I’ve dedicated my life to this sport,” he said. “I think it would be crazy not to say you want to be the best at it.”
His teammates say he is getting closer.
“We compete every day,” sdefensive back K’Waun Williams said. “We’re always buttin’ heads. He definitely got better. He got faster, his routes are more crisp, and he’s become a leader on the offensive side of the ball.”
It’s a necessary role for a rookie offense that returns just six starters, including Street.
“I feel like with every great team -- you see the Pats, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick -- those are great leaders,” Street said. “The Ravens this year, look at those guys, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed. You just see it around. All of these great teams have great leaders, guys who know what to say. Of course a leader isn’t going to do everything right, but the point is to rally the troops. That’s why there are generals appointed in the military, things like that. When it comes down to crunch time, that guy has to take responsibility for his soldier or his team. That’s what I’m willing to do, whether it be negative or positive feedback. No one is bigger than the team, but there should be a leader who can bring it all together.”