“How are you? I’m Tyler Weltz, from Beauxbridge, Los Angeles.”
20 seconds into the interview – before he answered his first question – he added, “It was a blessing to be in Pittsburgh and to be part of this team.”
Weltz and Carter Johnson, a transfer from UCLA through Butler Community College (Cannes), are first-year Pitts but are Saturday college football veterans, and their lives have taken many turns — physically, mentally and geographically.
Most Pete Center groups have at least one transmission, but Wiltz and Johnson broke the mold a bit. Both men are making a huge leap from community college to Power 5.
Weltz has played the past three seasons in Missouri, playing for the FCS All-American last year after spending 2017 and 2018 at Southern Arkansas and Independence (Kan.) Community College.
Is he worried about making that giant leap? He certainly doesn’t seem anxious.
“I was fortunate to have excelled at the (FCS) level,” he said. “I work my ass like I do here, and I have that confidence, and I say I can do it, and I know there’s more.”
Wiltz doesn’t view Pitt as just a path to the NFL.
“Here, everyone has aspirations of going into the league,” he said. “But if you come in here every day (and say), ‘Yeah, I’m going to the league,’ that’s my position. You can’t win a position with me.
“Everyone (in Pete) plays for each other. You can’t just think of yourself. Success comes from thinking as a team.”
No wonder he gets along so well with coach Pat Nardese, whose favorite motto was “we, not me.”
“Coach Narduzzi, when I sat in his office, was wearing sandals for his legs,” Wiltz said. “Most coaches you talk to will not be comfortable with you.”
At that meeting Nardozzi explained Weltz’s opportunity, and a bond was formed.
“The situation told me. This is what we want you to do. You come to work, you have a lot of talent, we will help you get where you want to go, and we will achieve success as a team.”
When asked about the difference between practices in Pitt and Missouri State, he thought about the question and returned to it five minutes later before answering.
“It’s honestly not that much of a difference. Everyone wants to be successful,” he said.
“The resources are a little different. There are more supplies available for us to actually recover, eat more. You will notice a difference in my body (between) playing here and playing there. My performance will gradually increase as we progress.”
Wiltz is one of eight players vying to play in three positions. The only confirmed full-back to start the game is All-ACC second-team pick SirVocea Dennis, while Wiltz is joined by another transfer, former Notre Dame player Shayne Simon, as well as Brandon George, Solomon DeShields, Bangally Kamara, Buddy Mack and Aydin Henningham.
“It’s still all up in the air,” Weltz said. “That’s why we come every day and work. That’s all we can do.”
Wiltz is proud of what he’s accomplished so far—he’s also the choice of the All-Missouri Valley Conference twice—and what he must do every day to survive the rigors of college football.
“Not everyone can get up at 6 a.m., go get therapy, come to work out at 9, finish at 12, maybe take an hour or two off and do the whole schedule and come back to do it again,” he said. “You should be really blessed, and really pray.”
is it difficult? Sure, but…
“Every day I wake up with a smile on my face. I don’t know if you can say, ‘I’m glad to be here,'” he said.
Likewise, Johnson is happy to find a home in his third college after a successful prep career in Pickerington, Ohio.
Johnson went to the TCU in 2019 thinking he would play defensively before finding himself inside and needing to put on weight. He did not play this season before moving to Butler CC
He wanted to play the insult—”I didn’t really have double teams in every match,” he said—and began a massive attempt to lose weight in order to play a tight end.
He lost 123 pounds in nine months, from 338 to 215, kept his daily calorie intake under 1,000 and ran two to three miles a day.
“That was a huge burden on my body. I was really weak at 215. I didn’t like it,” he said. “I ended up hitting the weight room a lot during the summer before I went to JUCO. Once I got there, they had a great programme.”
He played last season at 238 yards and left Butler with a total of 22 receptions for 293 yards and four touchdowns.
Now, it’s 255 in a 6-foot-2 frame.
“They feed us great here. Four times a day.
Johnson is much happier now, much closer to home than the 16 hours between Pickerington and Fort Worth, Texas.
“At first, it was a struggle,” he said. “I felt like I was on an island. I really hurt myself.”
After leaving TCU, he said he focused on rebuilding his mental health.
“I feel really good about myself,” he said. “I feel like I’m exactly where I need to be.”
Jerry DePaola is a Tribune Review writer. You can contact Jerry via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .