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Spring ball story

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Sam Clancy knew what was coming the moment he saw Jackie Sherrill last August at Pitt’s training camp.

Give me two football seasons, the Panthers football coach would say to the Pitt basketball star in the late 1970s, and I’ll turn you into an All-American.

So after Clancy spent 11 seasons in the NFL as a defensive end, he expected to hear about it from Sherrill. And he was right. That encounter reminded Clancy of his short-lived stint with the Pitt football team in the spring of 1980.

“In the two weeks that I was there for the spring, I guess I made an impression on Jackie,” said Clancy, now volunteering at Pitt while completing his degree in general studies. “He was trying to see if I could match up with the big boys. He would throw me in there against Mark May, Jimbo Covert and see if I could hold my own. Obviously, I did. Every play was run my way. They didn’t knock me off the ball and I ended up making a couple tackles.

“Jackie would call me into his office after every practice and show me the film. Then I sprained my ankle and we got a new basketball coach, Roy Chipman. He gave me an ultimatum: ‘Basketball or football; you can’t do both.’”

Given that option, Clancy stuck with basketball, led the Panthers to a 19-12 record and finished with 1,671 career points, which ranks eighth in school history. Drafted in the third round by the Phoenix Suns, he was cut in training camp and sent to the CBA’s Billings (Mont.) Volcanos.

“When I got there, I had a call from the Seattle Seahawks,” Clancy recalled. “There was a message in my room. (Assistant general manager) Chuck Allen said he got word from Jackie Sherrill that ‘you were a pretty good athlete when you went out for the Pitt football team for two weeks in the spring.’”

The rest, as they say, is history.

So here’s my question: If you could pick one current Pitt basketball player to join the football team, who would it be, what position would he play and why?

Click here to send your suggestions.

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