It may be hard to believe, but the Cardinals begin their 35th season in the Phoenix metro area Sunday when they open the 2022 campaign against the Kansas City Chiefs.
This NFL season, which ends with Super Bowl 57 in Glendale, the Arizona Republic visits with some of the names and faces in Cardinals’ Arizona franchise history, leading off withformer running back Michael Pittman.
Pittman played four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, from 1998 to 2001, and scored 13 total touchdowns. He had 846 rushing yards in 2001, but his best season was 2000, when he was a threat catching the ball along with 719 rushing yards. Pittman had 73 catches for 579 receiving yards that year, as he evolved into a passing game threat.
Pittman lives in Chandler with his family and follows his older sons’ football careers, Michael Jr. with the Indianapolis Colts and Mycah at Florida State. Daughter Mykava is soon to start college softball in Florida.
Q: What are you up to these days?
A: Just, you know, raising my family, dedicated the last 13 years to my children, being there for my children. When I first retired back in 2009, I went straight into coaching. I was coaching with the Washington (Football Team), I did a summer internship out there for Mike Shanahan. But, you know, that really took me away from my children. And I really wanted to be a part of their lives, you know, growing up, because I know how important football was to both my boys. And then, you know, softball to my daughter. So I just retired. And I focused on my children, really helping them all get scholarships to get into college and all those things. And all of them got scholarships, man. So I’m going to look to try to get back into coaching sometime.
I’m looking forward to trying to catch on with a team next year, either being in the pros somewhere or in college.
Q: Let’s go back to your rookie year after you were drafted by the Cardinals, and what you remember about those days.
A: When that 95th pick was called in 1998, I heard my name. It was just like, it was just a feeling that I can’t describe. Butterflies. It was just, I couldn’t believe it. You know, all the hard work had paid off for me. And honestly, you know, if it was the first pick or the 95th pick or the last pick, just to get drafted was a dream come true to me. And, you know, Mike Bidwill, his father Mr. B. who passed away, gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams, and play on their franchise, and I’ll never forget what they did for me and my family, you know, they gave me a job, a dream job. And I wish I could have delivered more than what I did. But, you know, when I was there, I did my best for the organization. And from there I moved on after that, but, you know, I have all the respect for the Cardinals. And like I said, I thank them for giving me the opportunity, but it was definitely a dream come true back in 1998.
Q: You really flourished in Tampa when you went to the Buccaneers. You got a Super Bowl ring there. What made Tampa Bay a better fit?
A: Well, I’m not going to really say it was a better fit. You know, I think in the end, not to make no excuses but back in 1999, when I got my first start against the Detroit Lions, got turf toe, a pretty serious injury. I tore ligaments in my big toe. And after that, I really wasn’t the same running back that I was before the injury. I still had decent speed, I had decent balance. But before that injury, I felt like I was a more all-around better player.
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I was second guessing myself a lot after the injury … I hold myself to a higher standard, you know, on and off the field, and was not producing at that time. And I felt like I let a lot of people down, because I knew I could do better, but the injury was just holding me back. And so in the end, the coaching staff at that time … decided to go a different direction, they decided to go with Thomas Jones. And I went into free agency.
I probably would have finished my career as a Cardinal but the injury slowed me down. But I had a great career out there with the Bucs. Won a Super Bowl. … So you know, I had a great career, but it was fun. A lot of things, like I said, I didn’t achieve because of the injuries. But I’m not going to make excuses for it.
Q: Did your sons get the chance to grow up around an NFL locker room in Tampa?
A: During practice, they would go into the area where our game room is to play some video games. A lot of my teammates at the time knew that they were my children, obviously. It was a good experience for them. They didn’t really know how big the NFL is, and that their dad was a professional athlete. They just saw dad playing football and I was Dad.”
Q: It must be just a really cool thing to know that you played in the league and now you have a son playing in the league and potentially another one. And so there must be a lot of really good memories for you from your time in the NFL.
A: When I went back for the Alumni Weekend with the Cardinals (in August) this was my first time going back in a very long time, because like I said, I’ve been dedicated to my children and always being there for them. So I’ve really never made time for myself, honestly, but you know, going back, it was great. Seeing my kids doing the things they love and, you know, teaching them from my experience of what to do, what not to do, how to be, how to act, how to prepare for where they want to go in life.
Words can’t describe the feeling as a father and, you know, me putting my life on hold for them for the past 13 years was all worth it, seeing where they’re at now.
Q: How closely do you still follow the Cardinals? What do you think about the direction that they’re going in and how the season will go?
A: “I think Mike Bidwill has done a great job with the team. Going out there and getting key players, a great young coach with an offensive mind, just putting things in place where they have the opportunity to compete for a championship. Kyler (Murray), he’s still like, you know, he’s a very young quarterback. And people are still like, you still got a lot to prove, but the young man has all the talent in the world to be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.