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Pinkston Perseveres

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After enduring plenty of trials, Pitt senior offensive tackle Jason Pinkston has emerged on the other side and is on the brink of realizing his dreams.

If character is truly built through adversity, then Pitt left tackle Jason Pinkston has enough for an entire offensive line.

From living in the projects growing up, to losing his biggest fan at one of the most crucial times of his life, Pinkston has been through it all. While he could have given up, and many in similar situations did, the 2009 All-Big East performer persevered.

“I see how hard my mom worked to give us a chance to be raised right,” he said. “She never gave up on us; so I’ll never give up.”

Pinkston was born in the projects of Whitaker, but with his parents separated at an early age, and his oldest brother James in prison, he spent the majority of his adolescence living in South Park and West Mifflin with his brother Julian, and mother Martha.

During Pinkston’s freshman year in high school, his mother was struggling to make ends meet, and sent her sons to live with their grandmother in Baldwin. By this time, Pinkston had already attended five different schools.

“I come from a poor family, so I understood when we were younger why we were moving,” Pinkston said. “My mom was raising us paycheck to paycheck, and she did the best she could.”

The 6-4 lineman flourished in all aspects while at Baldwin. He lettered in both football and basketball, while creating a tremendous support system in the process.

Besides the obvious support from his grandmother, in a time of need, Pinkston knew he could turn to the family of his former girlfriend, Kaitlin Marecic.

“They were there for me more than my own family at times,” he said. “They have been there for me through everything.”

Another strong presence in Pinkston’s life came from his former assistant basketball coach, Paul Hindes.

“There was no doubt that Jason Pinkston was a special young man,” Hindes said. “The most interesting part of watching Jason was the fact that he slowly but surely put some of the pieces together that were going to create some special opportunities in his life.”

Pinkston became a highly sought after recruit by the end of his sophomore season. And once his high school career had ended, the then defensive tackle finished with 180 tackles, eight sacks and five fumble recoveries.

His hard work was rewarded by a selection to play in the Big 33 Classic. The selection and success came as no surprise to Hindes.

“Jason was blessed with some truly magnificent talent, but athletic talent is only part of the story,” he said. “It’s also about adding the discipline, responsibility and work ethic. And from early on in his career, those were significant pieces he began to add.”

After long deliberation, the East Region’s No. 27 prospect chose Pitt so that his mother could still watch him play. Pinkston contributed right away as a backup tackle and fullback in Pitt’s “jumbo” package during his freshman year.

Pinkston was forced to take a medical redshirt the following year after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury just three games in. The year got even worse when his beloved mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Although Pinkston had braced himself for the worst, nothing could have prepared him for the reality that occurred in the offseason.

During a practice on May 15, 2008, the left tackle got a devastating call from his father. It was the call he had feared; his mother had lost her year-long battle with breast cancer.

“I always think about her,” Pinkston said. “I just remember what she told me right before she passed. She said, ‘you need to be playing football. You’re going to be famous someday.’”

“I know she’s in a better place right now, and she doesn’t have to suffer anymore.”

The loss of his mother has only strengthened Pinkston’s belief that, “only the strong survive.” He’s became motivated to become a better player and person.

“I just keep moving forward and persevering,” he said. “My mom always taught me to do the right things and treat people with respect. I still have a long way to go to get where I want to be, but right now, it’s working out.”

The strategy his mother drew up appeared to have worked, as Pinkston has become a three-year starter for the Panthers, who entered December battling for their first Big East title since 2004.

On top of his college success, Pinkston is a projected second-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, according to Kevin Weidl of Scouts Inc.
Hindes believes that every honor Pinkston receives is something he deserves.

“He is an absolutely special human being with a delightful personality. Even on the field you can see how much he cares about people,” he said. “There is no question that what has happened to him and what will happen in the future, are things he’s truly earned and deserves.”

“My wish for him is that he continues to be a super human being and make sure everything he does benefits the people around him.”

And although Pinkston is humbled that he may play professional football, he believes his mother would be proud of him for another reason.

“She’ll be more proud of the fact that I’m going to graduate with a degree,” he said. “I’ll be her first boy to finish school, and that was always something that she wanted.”

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