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High School Football

Pitt beckons for Highland's Tyler Zelinski

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    Highland High School senior quarterback Tyler Zelinski (13) looks to make a pass during a game against Avon High School in 2015.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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Like he’s done numerous times in his football career, Tyler Zelinski waited for the right decision.

Instead of finding the right receiver downfield, the former Highland quarterback was waiting for the correct school to continue his collegiate career.

Zelinski found that in the University of Pittsburgh, as he will continue his education and athletic life at the Atlantic Coast Conference school after a successful season at Erie Community College.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “This is something that I have been working for my whole life, and I finally get this opportunity to compete at one of the top football programs in the nation. It’s a dream come true and a blessing from God.”

Zelinski was waiting to hear back from Southeast Missouri State — he also fielded offers from Toledo and Lake Erie College — when the 19-year-old got a phone call from Erie C.C. coach Scott Pilkey, who let Zelinski know that Pitt was in the market for a quarterback after two recently left the program.

Combined with the fact that most of his family is from Mercer, Pa. — about 40 minutes outside of Pittsburgh — Zelinski didn’t need much time to think about it.

“It was late in the recruiting process, and I was trying to make a decision but really didn’t know where all my options were,” he said. “I got a call from coach and he said, ‘What do you think of Pitt? Would you want to go there?’

“Right away I jumped on it because my family is from PA, so it was close to home and my family would be able to come to my games.”

The Panthers are coming off a 5-7, 3-5 record but finished 2017 with a 24-14 victory over second-ranked Miami.

After the thrilling win orchestrated by true freshman Kenny Pickett, the quarterback situation was shaken up a bit when sophomore Ben DiNucci and redshirt freshman Thomas MacVittie transferred.

Combine those moves with the loss of fifth-year QB Max Browne and the door opened for Zelinski.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder was impressive in his lone season at Eric C.C, completing 54 percent of his passes (140-for-258) for 1,756 yards and 16 touchdowns as the Kats went 4-5.

Zelinski broke the school’s single-game passing record with 357 yards in a four-touchdown, come-from-behind win over Nassau Community College.

“They called me up and said they loved my film and wanted me to visit right away,” said Zelinski, who plans on majoring in business. “Pitt just felt like home, and I thought it was the best opportunity for me.

“The biggest thing was the quarterback situation and the coaches. The coaches were all really awesome and made it feel like home right away. They want me to play QB.

“With the QB situation as it is now, there is one returner and I just know I have to come in and compete for that role.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.



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