Most wide receivers do not enjoy blocking. More often than not, though, it is that unglamorous phase of the game that determines playing time and separates the truly elite players.
That's a lesson Pitt wide receiver Devin Street has been hearing since high school. His father, Ted Street, also his receivers coach at Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Pa., emphasized blocking and delivered that message to Street.
"[My dad would] coach me and tell me blocking was a big part of being a wide receiver, helping those guys out in the backfield," Street said.
"It's been with me since high school. My junior year, I had five catches and was asked to block pretty much. Same thing senior year."
Street's blocking has improved for the Panthers this year, but he also is making a bigger impact catching the ball. Street leads Pitt with 39 receptions for 514 yards and three touchdowns.
The touchdowns are a career high, and he is on pace to shatter his career marks of 53 catches and 754 yards.
Street said he notices a difference watching film this year compared to past seasons.
"I think there's an improvement with every year I've played," he said. "This year, a big thing for me is playing as a complete player. I think my blocking's better, being strong with the catch, [getting] yards after the catch. I think I'm just completing myself as a complete wide receiver."
After playing last season around 185 pounds, Street bulked up to 203at training camp this year.
"Just catching the ball, getting hit, I feel like I'm definitely stronger with the ball," he said.
Street showed flashes of his potential last season. He had back-to-back 100-yard games against Cincinnati and Louisville, but disappeared in other contests.. He had two games with no catches and three more with three or fewer receptions.
This year, Street has registered at least four catches in every game. He had his first two games with double-digit receptions in Pitt's previous two contests, with 10 grabs against Syracuse and 11 against Louisville
Pitt coach Paul Chryst said he enjoys coaching players such as Street because there's plenty of room for improvement.
"Those are the ones who are fun to coach, the ones who can grow," Chryst said. "You want to help them be as good as they can be. When those ceilings are high, those are the fun ones to be around."
Street couldn't do it by himself this year, though. Even the best wide receivers need a quarterback to get them the ball, and Street is benefitting from a stellar season thus far from quarterback Tino Sunseri.
Street and Sunseri each said their relationship has developed this year, and they are more in sync with recognizing coverages and routes on the sideline in games.
Street was targeted for passes 13 times against Louisville, by far the most of any Pitt receiver. He is one of Sunseri's favorite third-down receivers.
"It's just experience," Street said. "Experience out there seeing different things and carrying it over from practice to the game and I just think I'm progressing."
He's a talented receiver who is enjoying a breakout season. But Street said he still gets plenty of advice from that high school receivers coach who made sure he knew how to block.
Street said his father is still constantly coaching him.
"Even with a good catch, he'll find something," Street said. "But I think that's a good thing. He's definitely pushed me all the way up, and I've got to thank that man for everything."
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @SWernerPG. First Published October 17, 2012 4:00 AM