An unfortunate turn of events for Austin Pittman turned out to be just the break Charleston needed.
Pittman grew up a multi-sport standout in Greenwood, but quit football after junior high to concentrate on baseball where he was a top pitching prospect throwing in the mid-80s. Pittman pitched as a freshman on Greenwood’s 5A state championship baseball team but later his stock dropped after an elbow injury robbed him of velocity.
Pittman hoped to return to football, but team policy at Greenwood prevents players that had left the program from returning. It was a logical choice for Pittman to move to Charleston, where the Tigers had a strong 3A program.
"I knew Ty Storey and some of the other guys over here and I knew they had a great program," Pittman said. "I missed football my 10th grade year and I wanted to go back out but I wasn’t able to play at Greenwood. It was a chance to come over and get back into to football and its been a great opportunity."
Coincidentally enough, a nice house was available in town as former Charleston head coach Doug Loughridge had left for Alma, which the Pittman family bought. Charleston’s first year head coach Greg Kendrick had also coached as an assistant at Greenwood before coming to Charleston.
"I knew Austin from the Bull Pups program in Greenwood and I knew him and his family and I knew they were good people," Kendrick said. "It was just a situation where they had a policy there (at Greenwood) and he couldn’t go back and play football his senior year. It was a gift for us and we were more than happy to have him."
Charleston was 9-3 last year with an offense that relied heavily on the passing of Storey. Pittman (6-foot, 200 pounds) was a huge boost to the running game. He has averaged 10.5 yards per carry and leads the team in receptions, averaging almost 12 yards per catch. He has scored 16 total touchdowns.
"Last year, we were one dimensional — we had to pass, pass, pass," Kendrick said. "Teams were rushing two or three and dropping eight guys back in coverage. When we see that look this year, Ty just hands off to Pittman and we’ll take the yards on the ground."
Pittman has a powerful frame, good balance, running instincts and can run a 4.6 in the 40.
"He’s faster than he looks because he is big and strong," Kendrick said. "But he is a very explosive runner. He hits the hole and turns the basic run into a big play. I haven’t seen anyone catch him from behind all year."
Charleston’s team is a tight-knit group that has played together since the elementary school days, but didn’t have a problem with a Bulldog turning into a Tiger.
"Our kids grew up playing with Austin or playing against him in baseball, basketball and in the Little League football program," Kendrick said. "They knew he could help us and welcomed him with open arms."
Pittman didn’t have surgery on his elbow but hopes the rest while playing football will allow him to help the Charleston baseball team in the spring.
"When I thought about transferring to Charleston I talked to some of the guys over here and they were all real positive about it," Pittman said. "They made me feel just like one of the guys that grew up here all their life and made me feel welcome. It is like one big family over here and that is one thing I really like about it."