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Baltimore Ravens' star Dennis Pitta signs autographs at Modell's Sporting Goods

Fans flock to 'meet-and-greet' for tight end three days before AFC champs head to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans

By Nelson Coffin, ncoffin@tribune.com

January 25, 2013

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By her calculations, Caroline Boyle said that each of the 200 or so people in line for a "meet-and-greet" with Dennis Pitta would get about 46.4 seconds of face time with the Baltimore Ravens tight end Friday evening at the Modell's Sporting Goods store in Parkville.

While Caroline and her Towson High School classmate Molly Donohue's math may have been off the mark, the sophomore's more salient point was that the fans and Pitta's interaction would be severely limited out of necessity and time constraints.

After all, the line to reach the table where Pitta sat snaked from near the front of the store to the back and around shoe displays.

Not that Ruxton resident Caroline or Molly, of Knollwood, were complaining. They expressed nothing but glee about meeting a player with whom Caroline first became enamored because his surname is similar to a character in "The Hunger Games" named Peeta.

"Oh my God, I only found about it last night," Caroline said with a wide grin. "I texted her and said, 'We're going.' I can't believe I got to converse with Dennis Pitta. Now we can cross that one off our bucket list."

Pitta's effect was profound on the teens.

"I thought I was going to pass out when I was up there," Caroline added. "He's so handsome. He's perfect."

Molly said that both girls are rabid Ravens fans and that she "won't know what to do on Sunday" because the team is not playing until a week later in Super Bowl XLVII.

What some fans are doing in the interim is buying Ravens' gear — and a ton of it.

A department manager at Modell's, Adisa Agic, 26, said that the store's business has increased by about 50-to-60 percent since the Ravens defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game Jan. 20.

"Everybody's spirits are up," the Loch Raven High School grad said. "It's great to see people support a team that everyone loves."

A member of that group — if not at the head of it — is Timonium resident Debbie Bruno, who was buying a shopping cart full of Ravens jerseys, camouflage pants, pennants and plastic cups for 11 family members across the country.

"We have family in Iowa, and they can't get this stuff there," said Bruno, who was also shopping for daughter Michele, 23, a St. Paul's School for Girls alum and son Thomas, 19, who attended Loyola Blakefield.

Bruno had already done her fair share of Ravens-oriented shopping, considering she was decked out in purple and gold beads, a purple turtleneck sweater, black skirt and purple tights.

She left before Pitta arrived 15 minutes late because of a light snowfall that snarled traffic.

Isabella Massa, 16, the first in line, wasn't about to leave regardless of how late her hero was. During the more than four hours she waited, the Institute of Notre Dame junior penned a letter to Pita asking him to her prom.

"I don't care that he's married," she said. "I'll ask his wife if it's OK."

Although Pitta did not read Isabella's letter, fan Mary Mulvey said she would "love him even more" if he accepted the invitation.

Mulvey and her fellow nurse at Chesapeake Urology Associates, in Towson, Elaine Carroll, were snapping pictures of Pitta from the side as autograph seekers filed by them.

Pitta, though, has bigger fish to fry in the Super Bowl.

He said the time since the victory over the Patriots has been "like a normal week" for him.

"I didn't know what to expect," said Pitta, who caught a touchdown pass against the Patriots one play after taking a vicious hit on a reception. "I think that's going to change on Monday (when the team heads to New Orleans). That's when it will start to sink in."