LOS ANGELES – All USC senior Michael Pittman has ever known is football.
From his time as a local standout at Oaks Christian High School, to his days catching passes on national television as a USC Trojan, the sport runs in his blood.
“Growing up, my dad played pro and I was born the year he got drafted,” Pittman said. “I never really questioned that I would play football. It’s been a dream of mine ever since I can remember.”
His sights have always been set, like so many other young players on hearing his name called at the NFL Draft.
But like every other prospect, his path to the Draft this year has been turned inside out.
“I was expecting to do Pro Day, I was expecting to go do visits with teams, I was expecting to go see facilities or things like that and then it didn’t happen,” Pittman said.
In fact, after his appearance at the NFL Combine in mid-March, the football league came to a screeching halt. All of the league’s off-season programs went completely virtual — a response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Instead of catching passes on the field, Pittman spends the majority of his time working out in small groups, with no quarterbacks in sight, or at home creating content with his girlfriend for their YouTube page.
For him, his priority has become controlling what he can.
“I’m just focusing on me and what I can control which is staying in shape, staying fit,” he explained. “Whenever the time comes I’m gonna be ready.”
But it’s another added challenge for the young player, who had already seen his share of ups and downs in his four seasons at USC.
“My time at SC, you can consider it tough from the circumstances that I’ve had to face. I’ve had a lot of different quarterbacks, and all of the media buzz around the team of this and that and changes,” Pittman said. “But it taught me that you can pretty much conquer anything.”
As a senior captain, he put the lesson into action, racking up 1275 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
But more than stats, his time in college taught him an even greater lesson in perspective.
“When I really think about it, I try to put my problems in perspective compared to the world,” he said. “Yes, I might be struggling here, it might be hard, but I’m so blessed to be here in this opportunity.”
“When I think like that it helps me stay positive,” he continued. “I just appreciate things more.”
As he looks toward the 2020 Draft, beginning on Thursday night, he’s not letting what is happening in the world around him cloud this big moment.
“It doesn’t affect the football aspect and how hard I’ve worked. I know that eventually we will get past this,” Pittman said.
And if you’re busy wondering how he’ll feel when his name is finally called, let’s just say there will be few words.
“I told myself I wasn’t going to cry but I just might,” he said with a smile.
For Pittman, the NFL Draft will be the culmination of years of hard work, and the start to a career that’s been a long time coming