NFL Scouting Combine: Pinkston burning with NFL desire
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INDIANAPOLIS -- On the football field, Jason Pinkston is not accustomed to putting out fires. In a way, he tries to prevent them, usually by keeping a rusher off his quarterback in a fire-zone blitz.
In his three-year career as a starting left tackle for Pitt, Pinkston did that well enough to show potential as an NFL prospect and get invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. He has spent the past five days trying to improve his draft stock, even if it means switching to guard, and convince coaches and general managers he can step into the fire at the next level.
After all, he is accustomed to stepping into fires.
Pinkston, who is 6 feet 3.75 inches, 317 pounds, was a junior volunteer fireman for the South Baldwin Volunteer Fire Company from his sophomore year at Baldwin High School through his freshman season at Pitt. His college degree is in administration of justice, and two years ago he did a summer internship in the arson detection department of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire.
"I loved it a lot," Pinkston said. "It was nice to get out in the community and help people out. Not too many people volunteer to do that. Their numbers are low. I used to be terrified of fire trucks when I was little, but then there was a horn going off and I was like, 'I want to get into this.' I actually went up and I got involved with it and I love it a lot."
It wasn't just any internship. Pinkston worked with detective Michael Burns of the Pittsburgh Police department, who is also an arson inspector, and accompanied him on each shift, even the midnight shift. When Burns had to investigate a fire scene, Pinkston went with him, often digging through the rubble to help determine the origin of the fire.
Pinkston loved it so much he said he wants to get into some form of fire prevention or detection when he is done playing football. Right now, he hopes that career is still a number of years away.
"You couldn't meet a nicer guy in the world," Burns said of Pinkston. "He'd do anything for you. Just seeing how he talked to people and interviewed them. People would see his size, but he's very kind, very polite. He wasn't afraid to help anybody."
As a volunteer with the South Baldwin fire station, Pinkston went on a few calls and still remembers being "pretty nervous" for his first fire -- a house fire in Bethel Park in which the South Baldwin station was assisting.
"It was pretty exciting, pretty hot," Pinkston said.
But, before he could do that, Pinkston said he had to take a six-week class at the fire academy and also participate in training drills for three hours every Thursday night. He did that for four years, fulfilling one of his childhood dreams.
"My dad was actually going to be a Pittsburgh firefighter when he was growing up but he never did it," Pinkston said. "I just always loved it. There was always something about fire trucks that just always caught my eye. I went up one day, filled out some papers, got a physical, went through some classes. It was great."
At the combine, Pinkston is going through a similar regimen of tests and drills to see if he can become an NFL player. Right now, because scouts don't think he is big enough to play tackle, he is projected as a fourth- or fifth-round draft choice who could be switched to guard.
That's fine by Pinkston.
He started 41 games in his career with the Panthers, including three games at right tackle as a freshman before his season was ended by a left shoulder injury. He moved to left tackle as a sophomore and started 38 of Pitt's 39 games in three seasons, missing only the Sun Bowl his sophomore season because of a right shoulder injury.
Pinkston even has some NFL bloodlines: His cousin, Todd Pinkston, was a wide receiver with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2000-05.
"Whatever they want me to play," Pinkston said. "I didn't play guard in college. I was at left tackle and right tackle. I'm going to play wherever they need me. I understand that I'm not the size of some of the left tackles in the NFL. I understand that.
"Whatever team drafts me, I'm going to do whatever they need me to do. If it's 'move into guard,' I'll be a guard. If it's 'move into center,' I'll play center. If I have to play right tackle, I'll play right tackle."
Wherever he has to step, Pinkston will help put out the fire.
NOTES -- Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood, who started the final 13 games for injured Aaron Smith and finished with five sacks, including two in the postseason, had surgery to clean out bone spurs in his ankle.
First Published March 1, 2011 12:00 am