INDIANAPOLIS — Michael Pittman Jr. was born six months before his father of the same name was selected by Arizona in the 1998 NFL draft’s fourth round.
He watched Dad play 11 seasons as an NFL running back through 2008, the most memorable highlight coming on Jan. 26, 2003, when Michael Pittman rushed for 124 yards on 29 carries in Tampa Bay’s 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.
After fulfilling what he has always believed would be his NFL destiny, being selected Friday night by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round with the 34th overall choice, 22-year-old Michael Pittman didn’t waste any time setting the tone for his arrival in the Hoosier state.
While most rookies wouldn’t be blamed for waxing poetic about what it means to enter the NFL, the USC wide receiver answered the opening question on a Zoom video conference call like a seasoned veteran. He succinctly and respectfully expressed his gratitude in one quick sentence to the Colts, owner Jim Irsay, and head coach Frank Reich for the opportunity.
Then Pittman said simply, “I just can’t wait to get to work.”
That’s quite a first impression, reminding everyone that just getting to the NFL isn't the end goal. The 6-4, 223-pound physical specimen is eager to develop his skills against the best and help the Colts win.
As much as the Colts coveted Pittman for his size and strength as a wide receiver, for how he can high-point passes and abuse smaller cornerbacks by making seemingly impossible catches, he also couldn’t have been more impressive in how he goes about his craft.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard spoke of how the team is always looking for “toughness and reliability,” and couldn't be more convinced Pittman and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, also selected in the second round, exude both traits.
How prepared is Pittman for this next step? He expected the Colts to call.
“Yeah, so actually I was almost certain that I was going to be a Colt,” he said. “You see the blue shirt?”
He laughed and tugged on his blue shirt.
Pittman sensed a connection with the Colts in their conversations.
“I just felt like it was the right fit,” he said.
He expounded upon that assessment. The Colts brought him in to be an impact player, which is his expectation. The native Californian will be catching passes from former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who signed for 2020 with the Colts. Pittman is excited to work with someone he holds in high regard as a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Truth be told, Pittman said his father always knew this would happen. Consider that another reason why the son seems so NFL-ready.
“Yeah, so he’s basically like my crystal ball,” Pittman said. “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.”
“When I was young I just always thought that I was going to be an NFL player because that’s what my dad did. All I knew was NFL football. I was like, ‘My dad does it, I can do it, too.’ Back then, I didn’t realize how hard it was and the struggle it is, but looking back now, I’m right where I thought I would be.”
As a high school linebacker, safety and running back, it was his father who foresaw the son becoming a wide receiver. When Pittman struggled during his freshman year at USC, it was his father who reassured Pittman would one day be one of college football’s top wideouts.
Pittman caught 95 passes for 1,222 yards and 11 TDs last season and was a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award given to the nation’s top wide receiver. He won the Pop Warner Award as the top college senior on and off the field.
His father didn’t predict the Colts would call, as the son sensed. But when that phone rang on Friday night, Michael Pittman Jr. was ready.