TROY, Ala. (AP) - The most obvious thing is what KE’Marvin Pitts hears the most about from his teammates, though it’s an attribute he’s bore long before joining the Troy Trojans.
“It’s something I’m used to,” Pitts said. “I’ve been short my whole life, so it’s not something that really bothers me.”
But the 5-foot-6 senior receiver - if you ask his teammates when they’re not in a bantering mood - stands tall in so many ways.
“He’s short,” running back Jordan Chunn says, “but he’s got a big heart.”
From Pitts’ family circumstances, like him finding his dad dead when he was a high school sophomore, to him walking on at Troy, to his faithful devotion to Christ. There’s the moving scene in August when he went on scholarship, and the Trojans maneuvered for a touching moment.
There’s more to come, the Trojans are sure, beyond Pitts’ final home game Friday when Troy plays Texas State and beyond Pitts’ graduation.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, if it’s raining outside, if he’s going to get work, if he’s not going to get work, he comes with a smile,” Troy offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said, listing several of Pitts’ positive attributes.
“He’s going to make a great addition to society, for sure.”
Pitts hasn’t played this season, but he carries so much weight with the Trojans.
The smile is what starts it, despite what he went through when he was a 15-year-old high school sophomore in Georgia.
Pitts woke up on Feb. 17, 2011, so hopeful, on what he called “a normal morning, a normal school morning.”
He was excited to play in a postseason basketball game that night for the Deerfield-Windsor Knights and had already been a part of a championship football team the previous fall.
Also, it was his dad’s 53rd birthday. Since his mom was out of town the night before, Pitts - an only child - stormed into his dad’s room to commence with the festivities.
“I was ready to say happy birthday,” Pitts said. “Little did I know that was it.”
His dad, Marvin, was dead. An aneurysm had taken the former Army sergeant first class in the night.
It’s been more than 6 1/2 years and the pain, obviously, stays with Pitts. But there’s more.
“That was tough, but I’ve seen the Lord work through that in a lot of ways I didn’t know he could,” Pitts said. “That’s been really encouraging for me to see how something that seems to be a tragedy can turn around and be so much triumph.”
The numbers 217 and 53, for his dad’s birthday/death and age, will remain special, Pitts said.
“It’s still tough today, but I’m thankful for my dad and him being a good dad and the Lord providing me with a good father to instill values in a son that should be instilled from a young age,” he said.
“That has meant a lot to me and will mean a lot to me throughout my life.”
Pitts walked on at Troy as a receiver, though he moved to running back as a sophomore when the Trojans, due to injuries, were shorthanded.
He ran seven times for four yards in two games, numbers that also remain his career totals.
“Coach E asked if I would be willing to help out,” Pitts said. “I said, ‘Yeah, let’s go for it. I’m all in.’”
Pitts moved back to receiver the next year and remained a walk on until this August, when Troy head coach Neal Brown hatched a plot to make something memorable.
Brown invited Pitts’ mom, Marcia, to a preseason scrimmage along with the parents of three other walk-ons. (One set of parents couldn’t make it, so the parents of late Troy player Corey McCullers of Holtville stepped in.)
Pitts cheered with glee as the other three players learned they were going on scholarship, unaware that there would be a No. 4 and that he was it.
“The coaches start introducing each guy, but they don’t say the name, and what they say gives you a hint who it’s going to be, but you’re not quite sure,” Pitts said.
Each line passed and Pitts thought he could fit the description.
At the end, just as Edenfield said Pitts’ name, the Trojans erupted and carried him to the front. Marcia stepped into view, holding Pitts’ scholarship papers.
“She was in tears, and they were definitely tears of joy,” Pitts said. “The whole time I was in awe, in shock. I didn’t know how to respond at the time.
“I was so happy and thankful. I was so happy to share that moment with my mom and my team.”
Even Brown may have gotten a little dust in his eye.
“KE’Marvin is as good as a person as I have coached. He never has a bad day,” Brown said. “His mom is unbelievably strong and that was a special moment.
“I would love to get him in the game this weekend, if possible.”
Pitts said he’s “thankful” at how God used his father’s death to motivate him through the rest of high school and college. He’s “thankful” for his mom, Troy’s coaches and for his teammates.
Short may be what people first think when they see Pitts, but the Trojans have seen much more than that.
“They pushed me when times were tough,” Pitts said. “I’m where I am today because of all the people who supported me.
“I’m thankful for that.”
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