In his football career at Pitt, Andrew Taglianetti has proven to be an absolute whiz on special teams.
Off the field, Taglianetti has made just as big of an impact working with those with special needs.
Taglianetti, who grew up in South Fayette and graduated from Central Catholic, has put together a resume of community service accomplishments so impressive that he has been recognized nationally.
A redshirt senior defensive back, Taglianetti was recently nominated for the 2012 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. The honor takes into account not only a student-athlete's football exploits, but more importantly their activeness in the community and abilities in the classroom.
A total of 117 players were nominated, a list that included Zach Richert (Duquesne/Pine-Richland High School) and Sam Thompson (Carnegie Mellon).
Two 11-man teams will be selected, one consisting of NCAA FBS schools, and the other from FCS, Divisions II and III, and NAIA schools. Robert Griffin III, last season's Heisman Trophy winner, was a member of the team last year, and Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning were also past winners.
"Obviously, it's a big honor," Taglianetti said just before Pitt's preseason camp began Monday. "There are a lot of kids from across the country who try to make a difference in the community. It means something to be thrown in a group of them. It's definitely something I'm proud of."
Of the many off-field causes Taglianetti has been involved with, the one he travelled the farthest for and perhaps made the greatest effect on him was a one-week trip to Haiti this past spring in which he and 14 other Pitt athletes spent time volunteering at two orphanages.
"It was tremendously eye-opening," said Taglianetti. "Just to see a third-world country and how people live, it definitely changes your perception of life here in the United States. It's kind of amazing to see how people live like that."
One of the groups Taglianetti spends a lot of time assisting is the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Taglianetti is a member of the MDA Team, volunteers as an ambassador at MDA events, and helps out with the MDA Muscle Team.
Taglianetti also makes regular stops at the Mel Blount Youth Home -- which helps young boys who were victims of child abuse -- and visits patients at Children's Hospital and VA Pittsburgh.
In addition, Taglianetti has been a member of Pitt's Blue and Gold Society, participated in the school's Century of Change event, and took part in the WPIAL Sportsmanship Summit. Taglianetti, a two-time member of the Big East All-Academic Team, has already earned his bachelor's degree in business and is currently enrolled in Pitt's Katz Graduate School of Business.
Being involved in so many activities, the question becomes, "How does Taglianetti do it all?"
"It's definitely tough," he said. "There are times you would rather just be hanging out after a long practice or workout, and then had class, too. I just feel my time is better served doing this than just relaxing or hanging out. It might not seem that way at the moment, but it's definitely rewarding whenever you complete one of these activities or community service events. That's something I try to keep in mind."
Taglianetti's well-rounded life and outstanding work ethic never surprises Central Catholic coach Terry Totten, who witnessed it first hand when Taglianetti was in high school. As a senior in 2007, Taglianetti helped lead the Vikings to WPIAL and PIAA Class AAAA championships, and was named first-team all-state and to the Post-Gazette's Fabulous 22 team.
"He's an incredible person," said Totten, who played golf with Taglianetti a few times this summer. "He's from a tremendous family and he's a person who's concerned about his fellow human beings. He's kind. He's compassionate. He treats everybody like they're his neighbor."
Taglianetti started six games at safety a season ago and is fighting for a starting role again this season. A menace on special teams, Taglianetti has amassed a school-record six blocked punts in his career.
Taglianetti plans on continuing to do special things in the community, as well.
"I really hope to develop myself to the point where I have the resources to really help people beyond just me wanting to do it," he said. "I guess we'll see as time goes on or wherever my life takes me."
First Published August 9, 2012 11:45 AM