By Kevin Cowherd, The Baltimore Sun
6:25 PM EST, December 11, 2012
It's hard being Dennis Pitta right now. Grading all those term papers, monitoring all those final exams, attending all those faculty meetings — it can wear on you.
Plus there's another guy in town with the same unusual name and people keep getting the two of you confused, even though THAT Dennis Pitta is someone you've never even met.
But that ended Tuesday when Dennis Pitta, long-time University of Baltimore marketing professor, finally found himself face-to-face with Dennis Pitta, Ravens' tight end.
The meeting was arranged after the Ravens' star read a column in The Baltimore Sun last month about what life is like for a humble academic who's a big Ravens fan and shares the same name as a famous player in a football-mad town.
UB officials wanted to make it a surprise for the professor. So Darlene Smith, dean of the Merrick School of Business, lured him to the meeting on the pretext of seeking help with a new marketing strategy for the school.
Just after 11 a.m., Professor Pitta strolled into a conference room in the dean's suite, where the Ravens' star was waiting for him.
At first, the professor unknowingly walked right past him. But when he finally spotted the Raven, he did a George Costanza double-take before recovering nicely.
"I'm THE Dennis Pitta," he said with a smile. Then sticking out his hand: "Great to meet you finally."
Seconds later, the 5-foot-6, 180-lb. professor leaped on a chair to be at eye-level with the 6-5, 245-lb. tight end as UB staff members snapped photos and a local TV station captured the moment.
The tight end then presented the professor with an official No. 88 Ravens jersey with "Pitta" on the back and tickets to the Ravens' last two regular-season home games against the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants.
"We'll leave tickets, however many you want," the tight end said. "Just let me know."
"I'm uncharacteristically speechless," the professor said.
At this point, the two men were getting so chummy that the professor apparently decided to go for broke.
"Saturday night before the game — you interested in dinner?" he said. "My wife makes a mean pot roast."
The tight end laughed and glanced across the room at his wife, Mataya, but otherwise remained non-committal. Considering that the Ravens stay in a downtown hotel the night before a home game, it probably wouldn't have worked out, anyway.
For the next few minutes, Professor Pitta regaled the tight end with anecdotes about all the emails he gets from people who mistake him for the other man.
He said he's received wedding invitations from Utah meant for the tight end, chatty messages from Kelly Pitta, the tight end's sister, when she was in college, and dozens of random messages that say "Great catch in that game!"
The Ravens even emailed him their passing plays in a PDF file before No. 88's first minicamp in Baltimore three years ago. Even though he grew up in Boston rooting for the New England Patriots, he says he's a huge Ravens fan now, having lived in the area and taught at UB for 33 years.
He told the tight end that as soon as he received the Ravens' top-secret plays, he informed them of their mistake and added: "I promise not to sell them to the Steelers."
The professor also told the other Pitta that he still gets Facebook friend requests from attractive women who send along their picture, thinking they're corresponding with a hunky NFL star instead of a 60-something college professor.
"I got one just the other day!" he said. "And she was a knockout!'
Professor Pitta thinks there are only three other Dennis Pittas in the whole country — himself, the tight end, and the tight end's father. And because the forefathers of all three came from the Madeira Islands, the Portuguese archipelago off the coast of Morocco, he suspects they're distantly related.
Which was one reason the Ravens star wanted to meet the professor.
"Dennis Pitta seems like such a rare name," he said. "And to be here in Baltimore, playing for the Ravens and have another one as a professor at the University of Baltimore — it's just such a funny situation," he said.
As the meeting of the two men finally drew to a close, the professor couldn't stop smiling.
"It's an interesting thing," he said, gazing over at the other Dennis Pitta. "We all have bucket lists. And this is one of them for me."
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