When the great college football programs are the subject, most observers do no list the Pittsburgh Panthers. The thoughts go to Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas.

However, not only has Pittsburgh won 9 national championships, the Panthers have had a slew of all-time great players who have written remarkable stories at both the college and professional level. Some of those stars include running back Tony Dorsett, quarterback Dan Marino and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but there are a number of others that include Hugh Green, Bill Fralic, Rickey Jackson, Marshall Goldberg, Darelle Revis, Chris Doleman and Jimbo Covert.

In this piece, we look at the top 5 players in Pitt football history.

5. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald, 2010-2013

Donald is currently viewed by many observers as the best defensive player in the NFL. He started his climb to glory during his tenure with the Panthers, where Donald showed off his overpowering strength, brilliant initial quickness and superior instincts that allowed him to make game-changing plays on a consistent basis.

Donald had 47 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 11.0 sacks during his sophomore season at Pittsburgh and he followed that up with a powerful year as a junior. He had 64 tackles, an eye-catching 18 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. The 285-pound defensive terror was basically unstoppable in 2013 when he had 59 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss and 11.0 sacks.

Donald swept the defensive awards in that senior season, winning the Bronko Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik and Vince Lombardi Awards, along with the Outland Trophy and consensus All-America honors.

4. Tight End Mike Ditka, 1958-1960

Ditka is best known as the bombastic head coach of the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears. Prior to that he was a brilliant college and professional player who helped define the modern tight end position.

During his college career, Ditka made his mark at both tight end and defensive end. He also punted on occasion, showing his versatility. He caught 45 passes for 730 yards and 7 touchdowns during his career with the Panthers while also proving to be a dominant blocker.

Ditka was a consensus All-America during his senior season of 1960.

3. Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, 2002-2003

Prior to his brilliant NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals, Fitzgerald was a dynamic receiver with the Panthers for 2 seasons.

Live and breathe sports?

🚨 Get viral graphics, memes, rumors and trending sports news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

As a freshman, Fitzgerald caught 69 passes, for 1,005 yards with 12 touchdowns, and he demonstrated a remarkable ability to catch nearly everything he got his hands on. Fitzgerald was truly brilliant in his second and final season at Pittsburgh. He caught 92 passes for 1,672 yards and he scored a shocking 22 touchdowns.

Fitzgerald was not blessed with brilliant stopwatch speed, but he was a brilliant after-the-catch runner who was quite elusive. He won the Fred Biletnikoff Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year honors and he was also a consensus All-America.

2. Quarterback Dan Marino, 1979-1982

It’s difficult to find another quarterback at the professional or college level who had the talent of Marino. He combined a powerful rocket of an arm with one of the quickest releases the game has seen.

The fiery Marino had his best season in 1981 when he completed 226 of 380 passes for 2,876 yards with 37 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. While that interception total may have been high, it was clear that the Panthers were fully dependent on the arm of their quarterback. He finished 4th in Heisman Trophy balloting that season and was also a first-team All-America performer.

He threw for 2,432 yards his senior season, and he was ninth in Heisman voting. Marino was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

1. Running Back Tony Dorsett, 1973-76

It’s hard to find a better and more dominant college football player than Dorsett. He came to the Panthers as a star in his freshman season, and he finished as a national champion and the school’s only Heisman Trophy winner as a senior.

He rushed for 1,686 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman, 1,004 yards and 11 TDs as a sophomore and 1,686 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior.

Dorsett’s senior season was legendary, as he used his speed, elusiveness and shocking ability to break tackles on an every-game basis. He finished the season with 2,150 yards and 22 touchdown while averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh has never had a better college player than their brilliant running back.