Years before Dennis Pitta emerged as a clutch tight end for the Ravens routinely delivering acrobatic catches, he was an admittedly skinny high school wide receiver and cornerback.
Growing up in Moorpark, Calif., Pitta was a 6-foot-4, 185-pound Eagle Scout. He was also the proud owner of ambitious plans that outweighed his developing build.
"Everybody aspires to play in the NFL, and I wasn't any different," Pitta said. "I felt like I was a talented player in high school, but I was tall and skinny. I wasn't awkward, but football was very different than what it is for me now.
"It's been fun to evolve in football at two positions. It's obviously helped to have that receiver background throughout high school. Now, I get to do a lot of those same things with a little bigger frame and a lot better competition."
Since walking on at Brigham Young University nine years ago, Pitta has bulked up to 245 pounds through dedication to the weight room. It wasn't long before he switched from receiver to tight end and earned a scholarship.
After spending two years in the Dominican Republic serving a Mormon mission following his freshman year, Pitta became the Cougars' all-time leading receiver with 221 catches for 2,901 yards and 21 touchdowns and garnered All-American status.
"Dennis was an absolute dream to coach," said Lance Reynolds, BYU assistant head coach and tight ends coach, in a telephone interview. "He was a hard-working guy, never missed a practice. His practice habits were beyond reproach for us. He's a big-framed guy, that's the first thing we noticed about him. He was tall and skinny when he got here, but we had hopes he would be a tight end for us. If you stand next to him now, he's a broad-shouldered big guy.
"He's very fluid for a big man. He can adjust to things on the run. We moved him out in the slot, flexed him out, used him as a tight end, had him block on the goal line, used him in I formations. We moved him all over the place. He's as good a player as we've had, and we've had Todd Christensen and Chad Lewis here."