INDIANAPOLIS – The quote from his Super Bowl winning father is something that you would expect to be plastered on the walls of high school weight rooms all across the country.
The greatest lesson is you can never hurt yourself by working as hard as possible.
It’s that mantra Michael Pittman Jr. still has on his mind today when thinking about the greatest lesson he has learned from his dad.
Such a lifestyle certainly is music to the ears of the Colts, who took Pittman with the 34th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
In a ‘normal’ wide receiver class, one that wasn’t as crazily deep as the bunch in 2020, it’s quite possible Pittman would have been a top 20 pick.
But the Colts hope to be the beneficiary of that depth as they believe Pittman can become the team’s No. 1 wideout eventually.
Michael Pittman Sr. was a No. 1 during his 11-year career in the NFL.
Playing running back for the Cardinals (1998-2001), Buccaneers (2002-2007) and Broncos (2008), the elder Pittman ran for more than 5,000 yards in his career. A 124-yard outing by Pittman in the Bucs dominant Super Bowl XXXVII victory was the highlight.
The younger Pittman was just five years old during that season, but he still says he recalls his dad’s impressive run in the NFL.
“I remember all of his career, but I didn’t really appreciate the fact he played football because that was normal to me,” the wideout says. “I thought everybody’s dad played football. I didn’t really appreciate the fact until after he was done.”
As Pittman begun to go through the draft process earlier this year, he started to gain more appreciation for his dad’s career.
“There’s not a lot of minuses,” he said at February’s Combine about his dad playing in the NFL. “The only minus is probably the fact my dad was gone a lot at work. But there’s a lot of pluses. He coaches me up about stuff like this. He’s helped me get to this point.”
Even though Pittman’s interaction with Colts veterans was mostly virtual this spring, outside of one week in mid-June, he learned from his dad to try and balance the sponge-like nature needed for a rookie, and also carry a presence of a guy ready to make an early impact.
“I say you have to be confidently quiet,” the younger Pittman says. “You have to be confident enough to make the plays, but when a vet says something you have to be confident enough to take that constructive criticism and you have to know your place. That’s something that my dad taught me. It’s something that makes sense to me. I don’t really take it as, ‘He’s trying to embarrass me.’ I just take it like, ‘He’s treating me like he treats every other rookie.’ Don’t get your feelings hurt and be quietly confident.”
Standing 6-4—four inches taller than his father—the younger Pittman’s possible career as a running back ended after his sophomore year in high school.
Pittman’s pedigree is a reason why the Colts think he can make an immediate impact in the NFL.
Frank Reich points to Pittman’s physical and emotional maturity as reasons why he can produce earlier than some other wideouts who hit normal rookie hurdles.
In the history of the Colts, only one wideout has had more than 900 yards as a rookie (Bill Brooks: 1,121 yards in 1986).
Tennessee’s A.J. Brown is the NFL’s only rookie wideout to have a 1,000-yard season over the last three seasons.
Instant production is not easy (although Kennan Allen achieved it with Philip Rivers, recording a 1,000-yard season as a third-round pick in 2013) at the wideout position.
As Pittman tries to reach those lofty standards, you know who will be watching.
“He’s basically like my crystal ball,” Pittman says of his father. “He has predicted the future every step of the way. So it’s just awesome to have him because he’s pretty much coached me up my whole life about the NFL, dealing with coaches, locker-room life and basically teaching me to be a football player throughout my whole life.”
And the Colts hope that crystal ball has ‘Super Bowl champion’ in it.