Pitts wanted to get stronger to increase his production in 2020, but his sights were set primarily on the Mackey Trophy, the award given to the outstanding tight end in college football.
If winning the Mackey was the moon, Pitts just about reached the stars.
Pitts’ dreams of accepting the award amid the glitz and glamor of downtown Atlanta were reduced to attending the ceremony virtually in a brick basement. But the standout tight end, dressed in a white dress shirt and bow tie, achieved a dream three years in the making.
In one of the least contentious decisions of the night, Pitts was awarded the Mackey following a 770 yard, 12 touchdown campaign in 2020.
Pitts defied the odds during his entire tenure at Florida, leaving the university with a remarkable feat: becoming the first tight end to be nominated for the Biletnikoff Award, a recognition of the best overall receiver in the country.
While Florida’s sure-handed No. 84 ultimately lost out to Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, his consideration and first-round draft projections are evidence of Pitts’ incredible talent.
After transferring to Archbishop Wood high school in Warminster, Pennsylvania, Pitts was considered one of the best tight ends in the country, ranking as the fifth-best player in his position per 247Sports.
The Philadelphia native’s unique composition, standing at 6-feet, 6-inches and 190 pounds, made him a matchup nightmare in recent years. However, his relatively slim stature made Pitts a blocking liability early on, limiting him to just three receptions in his freshman year.
The First Team All-SEC selection continued dedication in the weight room inspired a stellar sophomore season and a record-breaking junior campaign.
Pitts hauled in 649 yards receiving and five touchdowns in the 2019 season, earning First Team All-SEC honors and putting together a standout season for a second-year tight end.
The Florida tight end wasn’t satisfied with his sophomore campaign, however, and declared his ambitions to earn the Mackey Award and an All-American selection his junior year
“I think I could get stronger in the weight room,” Pitts said when asked how he could improve his game. “To get my strength up and make sure everything I lacked this year I excel in next year.”
It was bitter work, but the results were worth it. Pitts transformed from a matchup headache to an unguardable superstar and formed an unrivaled connection with quarterback Kyle Trask.
"We know he's a mismatch out there on the field," coach Dan Mullen said. “That's something we certainly spent a lot of time with, having enough ways that he's going to get the ball in his hands during the course of the game trying to create matchup problems for the defense."
Pitts led the Gators in receiving yards on three occasions this year from the tight end position. His stats understate how dominant the All-American was. The Mackey Award winner missed three games due to injury and Florida’s Cotton Bowl debacle this season.
Despite playing just eight games in 2020, Pitts etched his name into Florida history in 2020, ranking seventh all-time in single season touchdowns (12).
The potential top-15 draft pick will leave an almost irreplaceable void in Mullen’s 2021 roster, being one of the best tight ends to don the orange and blue.
“I am eager to pursue my dreams of playing in the NFL, but I will always be a Gator,” Pitts wrote in his draft declaration. “84 out!”
Contact Declan Walshs at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @declanaw