Blue Chip Chat with Tom Ricketts, North Allegheny

Catching up with the top area high school football players entering 2009

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Height: 6-6 Weight: 265 • Position: OT-DT • Year: Senior

The Skinny: Considered one of the top offensive linemen in the WPIAL. Played offensive guard last year, but will play tackle this season. Has added about 15 pounds. A kid who never played football until middle school and admitted he "hated" the sport for a while. His father, Tom, is a former standout offensive lineman at Pitt in the 1980s and was a first-round draft choice of the Steelers.

College talk: Ricketts made a verbal commitment to Penn State this spring. He had numerous scholarship offers and chose the Nittany Lions despite being a big Pitt fan growing up. His mother, Sandy Albright Ricketts, was a standout swimmer at Pitt and his great grandfather, Charles "Doc" Hartwig was a first-team All-American at Pitt in the 1930s.

Don't you have a body frame to add weight? Comparatively to other kids, I'm still a skinny kid. I feel like I can put on 40 more pounds.

Doesn't it sound funny to hear a 265-pound kid call himself skinny? Yeah. There are a lot of big, fat kids where 260 pounds is a lot of weight for them to hold.

When you were younger, didn't you think your future was in basketball? In middle school, I was almost as tall as I am now. I thought I was going to be 6-10, but it didn't go like that. Honestly, I figured out my future wasn't in basketball when I was playing AAU in ninth grade. There were these giant 6-8 kids who could dunk on you. I thought, 'This might not be the best thing for me.'

Is high school football a year-round sport nowadays? Here it is. As far as the seniors, some of us took a week off after last season and then got back in the weight room. Organized weightlifting starts right after Christmas.

Is it tough to play more than one sport at a quad-a school? Oh yeah. It's looked down upon. You can do it if you want, but it's really hard. I know I couldn't imagine playing basketball here because of how often they work out, too. Basketball workouts go on in the summer at the same time as football.

How much flack did you get from Pitt fans when you committed to Penn State? A lot. More than I thought. I had something like nine people threatening me on Facebook, sending me messages. I'm a 17-year-old high school kid and one guy sent me a huge novel titled 'Loyalty.' He just went off on how my family all went to Pitt and how I am the worst thing that has ever happened. All I did was decide where I'm going to college. What's different from me and any other kid?

Did the criticism bother you? It bothered me some, but I guess it fuels me more than anything. I like proving people wrong. It's motivation.

What is the biggest thing you learned from you dad? When I was a young kid, he taught me how to be determined and how to get things done. Now, more than ever, he has probably taught me perseverance.

Favorite vacation spot? Ocean City, N.J.

Most dominant athlete in sports? LeBron James.

People might be surprised to know that you ...? I'm pretty smooth with the guitar.


Mike White can be reached at mwhite@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1975.


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