AAHS grad excited about Pitt game

From Mirror reports

When the Pitt Panthers open the 2018 college football season on Saturday against FCS opponent Albany University, there will be a distinctive local flavor on the Great Danes’ defensive side of the ball. His name: Altoona’s Eli Mencer.

And the former Mountain Lion knows that he will be playing in front of some familiar faces.

“I am going to be excited because a lot of people are going to this game so I am hoping that we come out on top. I don’t want to let them down,” said Mencer, who has at least 30 relatives/friends traveling to Heinz Field for the 3:30 p.m. kickoff. “We have a lot of Pittsburgh and Maryland guys on the team so it was hard to come up with more tickets.”

The 6-foot-1, 227-pounder — a redshirt junior — returns at linebacker for Albany. Last year, he was a Colonial Athletic Association third-team all-star defender where he totaled 60 tackles, 26 solo and 34 assisted. He will get a chance to improve upon those numbers against a Pitt offense that will be run by quarterback Kenny Pickett.

“Playing fast and being allowed to be myself in high school has really helped me prepare for something like this,” said Mencer, who played at Altoona under then head coach John Franco.

Mencer has been known for his big-play abilities on defense. He returned two fumbles for scores last year, including an 80-yarder against Villanova in an overtime victory. Still, the individual accomplishments are not what’s on his mind when talking about improving upon last year’s 4-7 mark.

“I just want to help our team win a CAA championship and most importantly right now, beat Pitt in our first game,” said Mencer, a journalism major.

Mencer, who once had a career-high 12 tackles in a game against Rhode Island last year, was recruited to Albany by head coach Greg Gattuso, who played football at Penn State under Joe Paterno from 1979-1983.