DAVIE — Dolphins coaches will push undrafted defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman to work hard to make the team this summer, but none of them could ever hope to inspire Pittman as much as a former teammate.
As a defensive tackle at Central Florida, Pittman played in front of linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who overcame the loss of his left hand at age 4 to become a fifth-round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks, where he’ll play alongside twin brother Shaquill, a cornerback.
“He’s the most inspiring person I’ve met in my life,” Pittman said. “He’s been through a lot and I think he deserves everything that he’s getting.”
Although they went from lining up a few yards apart to playing on opposite coasts, Pittman said he and Griffin are keeping in touch as they attempt to make the leap into pro football.
Pittman can’t match Griffin’s inspiring story — who can? — but he’d be a good story, too, if he makes the Dolphins. Pittman was invited to the East-West Shrine Game but came away from the experience having to sweat out his future.
“I went into the East-West Shrine Game and I was saying, ‘I’ve got to get this invite to the Combine, so I’ve got to go in here and give it my all,’ ” Pittman said. “And as soon as I hit the plane, getting ready to go, I started to feel this little pain in my back. And it just progressed every day.”
It was far more than back pain.
“Next thing you know they’re telling me I had the flu with 103 fever, so they sent me back and that was the end of that,” Pittman said.
Pittman, who grew up in South Georgia, got healthy, then flew to Dallas to work out with other NFL hopefuls, knowing he might not get drafted.
“I wasn’t hanging my head long,” he said.
Right after the Draft he got a call from the Dolphins, who’d parted with Ndamukong Suh. A few other teams called, but Pittman took the advice of his agent and headed to Miami.
The Dolphins no doubt were impressed by Pittman’s strength. He said he has benched 495 pounds and squatted 710.
“I do love the weight room but see here, it’s different because they work muscles that I’m not used to really working, I guess,” Pittman said Saturday. “Today we were doing just body-weight things and I’m in there shaking. So it’s going to take some time, but I’ll get it.”
Pittman started 33 games in his four-year career and was named to the All-American Athletic Conference team his senior year, when he had 47 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
“When I didn’t get drafted, I wasn’t too down about it,” said Pittman, who’s 23 years old, 6-feet-1 and 319 pounds. “I just knew I had to go in with a chip on my shoulder and work a little harder.”
Sort of like his buddy, Shaquem.
“It took me only two days to know he was a player,” Pittman said. “When I knew he was a great player, he still wasn’t playing. This was when coach (George) O’Leary was our coach.”
Once Griffin was installed as a regular at UCF, there was no stopping him, which benefited Pittman.
“I don’t think people really game-planned around me,” he said. “I played with the great Shaquem Griffin. If they’re worried about me, then ’18’ would be right there, on the ballcarrier.”
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