PITTSBURGH (AP) -The curse of having a running back as good as Tony Dorsett is that no player who followed him at Pitt has been worthy of comparison to the Heisman Trophy winner and former NCAA career rushing record-holder.
Even Dorsett thought so.
Until now.
Dorsett has watched every Pitt team from afar since he led the Panthers to an undefeated season and the 1976 national championship. Pitt sophomore LeSean McCoy is the first running back since then to cause Dorsett to say, ``Hey, that looks like me.''
The two running backs from different eras saw each other - they didn't meet, but each spent considerable time watching the other - when McCoy ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns against Navy last season.
McCoy admittedly was motivated by having Dorsett on the Pitt sidelines, and Dorsett - back at the school for a ceremony - found himself rooting for a player whose spin moves and cutback runs reminded him of himself.
``I said to myself, `That looked a lot like No. 33 (Dorsett),''' the former Pitt and Dallas Cowboys star said. ``He reminded me of me.''
Didn't take Dorsett long to realize it, either, because, he said, ``Greatness is greatness.''
McCoy, who could enter the NFL draft as early as next spring, probably won't stay at Pitt for the four seasons needed to make a run at Dorsett's many school records. But McCoy's 1,328-yard, 14-touchdown runs season in 2007 was the best for a Pitt freshman since Dorsett ran for 1,686 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1973.
McCoy's 110.67 yards-per-game average led all NCAA Division I freshmen and made him first-team all-Big East. McCoy's single-season yardage was the sixth-best in Pitt history, and Dorsett owns three of the other five marks.
Pitt brought Dorsett and McCoy together this year for a photo session and a ceremony in which Dorsett presented McCoy with a commemorative football listing his various freshman-season accomplishments.
The two running backs from Pennsylvania also sat down for a private meeting at which Dorsett reminded McCoy that doing the little things - practicing hard, studying tape, keeping in top shape - add up to a big career.
``When you hear it from a guy like Mr. Dorsett, it touches you,'' McCoy said.
The link between the two is Dave Wannstedt, the Pitt left tackle during Dorsett's freshman season and now the Panthers' coach.
Wannstedt understands one season like McCoy's doesn't make a career, but he sees in his now-sophomore star some of the qualities that made Dorsett arguably the greatest college football player of his era.
``There will be only one Tony Dorsett, and that's why it's such an honor that Tony took the time to personally pay tribute to LeSean's accomplishments,'' Wannstedt said.
Even if McCoy is around for only another season or two, Dorsett is looking forward to more trips home to watch him play.
Dorsett grew up close to Pittsburgh and, after leaving Pitt with a then-NCAA record 6,082 yards in four seasons, ran for 12,739 yards with the Cowboys from 1977-87 and the Broncos in 1988.
Not that McCoy needs reminding what Dorsett accomplished, since he strolls daily past a display case at Pitt's practice complex filled with Dorsett artifacts and a chronicle of his accomplishments.
``He is one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game,'' McCoy said. ``Walking past his retired jersey every day, my teammates and I know the high standards he set at Pitt.''
The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Dorsett and 5-11, 200-pound McCoy are nearly identically sized and both played at Pennsylvania high schools - Dorsett at Aliquippa and McCoy at Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt.
While both ended up at Pitt, their paths there were much different.
Dorsett went directly from high school to starring at Pitt as a freshman. McCoy remade his career after a severe ankle injury early in his high school senior season caused many top schools to stop recruiting him.
Pitt didn't - the main reason the Panthers landed him after McCoy spent a recuperative season at a prep school.
Much like Dorsett did, McCoy is showing an ability to be at his best in important games.
Despite going against a nine-man front at times, McCoy keyed Pitt's 13-9 upset of then-No. 2 West Virginia in December by running for 148 yards, not one of which was easily gained.
Probably the biggest upset in Pitt history, the victory has heightened interest in this Panthers season and led to speculation on what McCoy might do if he stays healthy all season.
One problem: McCoy must adjust to not having the two tackles, Jeff Otah and Mike McGlynn, who blocked for him last season. Otah went No. 19 in the NFL draft to Carolina and McGlynn was chosen by Philadelphia in the fourth round.
However, McCoy welcomes the return of wide receiver Derek Kinder, a big-play threat who sat out last season with a knee injury. Having Kinder strengthens a Pitt offense that was largely one-dimensional - McCoy runs left, McCoy runs right - the second half of last season.
Dorsett's hope is that Pitt rooters don't overwhelm McCoy with the inevitable comparisons to himself, and patiently let the young man stamp out his own career.
``He has a lot of things he can accomplish,'' Dorsett said. ``Comparing him to me? No, he is LeSean. Let him be LeSean.''

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