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Buckeye Heroes: From bringing the heat to putting out fires: Antonio Pittman’s post-football heroics

Former Buckeye football player Antonio Pittman has turned to a life of service in his community, making him an unsung hero on and off the field.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about Ohio State heroes. Whether they are the biggest names in Buckeye athletic history, or underappreciated icons; perhaps even players who made major impacts off the field. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Buckeye Heroes” articles here.

Former Ohio State running back Antonio Pittman was arguably underrated during his time as a Buckeye. Despite being a key playmaker for the Buckeyes, Pittman isn’t the flashiest OSU alum and probably wouldn’t be one of the first running backs to come to mind.

Still, between 2004-2006, he maintained an average of more than 5 yards per carry. His career total 2,495 places him 14th on the all-time Ohio State rushing leaders list.

His performance wasn’t solely statistical. Pittman’s big plays often came at key moments that shifted the course of tough games. He scored the winning touchdown against Michigan in 2005 with only 24 seconds remaining in the game. His 60-yard rush on an injured hamstring with 1:46 left in the 2006 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl gave OSU the edge over Notre Dame, ultimately clinching the win.

If Pittman’s name does come to mind when you’re thinking “Leading OSU running backs over the years,” it is probably these plays that stuck with you.

After forgoing his senior season to declare for the NFL Draft, Pittman was taken by the New Orleans Saints in the 4th round. He also went on to play for the St. Louis Rams before being waived in 2009 after a knee injury.

It is here our hero’s journey really begins.

Pittman was undoubtedly a force for the Buckeyes on the field. I would argue that any player who scores the winning touchdown in a Michigan game OR a Bowl Game deserves hero status. Pittman did both.

While his knee injury ultimately ended his football career, for a time, Pittman clung to the hope he might be able to recover. He told the Columbus Dispatch last year that it was during trips to the gym at this time, he met Violet Township fire lieutenant Kevin McFarland.

McFarland went on to recruit Pittman to become a fireman, introducing him to firehouse culture and giving Pittman a window into the possibility of firefighting as a full-time career.

He was sold. Pittman used his NFL earnings to put himself through the Fire Academy.

Now in his sixth year as a full-time firefighter, Pittman has dedicated himself to a life of public service. He joined the Columbus Division of Fire in 2020, and now, he is currently fighting fires in the same community he once lit up scoreboards.

This dedication to serving and giving back to his community doesn’t stop with fighting fires, either. Pittman is passionate about mentoring young children and creating life-changing opportunities for the youth of Columbus.

He and his girlfriend started a charity called Navigating Alternative Success, or NAS for short, to provide after-school programs, mentoring, and resources for college advancement such as tutoring or college application assistance to local youth.

The same drive and determination that drove Pittman to greatness on the field are now being harnessed to improve his community.

It might not be as flashy as football, but Pittman has traded the jersey for the quiet nobility of leading a good life of service. There’s nothing more heroic than that.