Pitt’s Carson Van Lynn turns off love for Duke

Pitt redshirt freshman Carson Van Lynn was still two weeks shy of his 15th birthday in 2013, so what better way for a teenager to spend New Year’s Eve than watching football?

For Van Lynn, the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl between Duke and Texas A&M wasn’t just another game. His cousin Matt Skura was Duke’s All-American center.

“I was upstairs watching the Chick-Fil-A Bowl by myself,” Van Lynn said, “just going nuts when they were playing Johnny Manziel. I watched every (Duke) game.”

But he’ll be doing more than watching the next time Duke plays. He could be in the game - at tackle or tight end or both - for Pitt on Saturday when they meet the Blue Devils at Heinz Field.

“I get the opportunity to play against (Duke),” he said. “That’s going to be a crazy experience, for sure.”

Van Lynn, 19, became a Duke fan through Skura, now the starting center for the Baltimore Ravens.

“We text all the time. He’s a great role model for me,” said Van Lynn, who graduated from Worthington (Ohio) Kilbourne High School six years after Skura did. “He’s been through everything I’ve been through and everything I will go through.”

Van Lynn, who has purged all of his Duke gear, said he won’t have any trouble turning off his allegiance to the Blue Devils. “It’s my time to prosper like he did,” he said.

Where that specifically occurs is a bit of a mystery. Van Lynn, 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, is a backup left offensive tackle, but he started working with the tight ends recently as Pitt’s ranks at that position grew thin. Even though his experience at tight end stems largely from youth football and a little bit in high school.

“With our tight end room getting smaller, they had to find one guy they could move there and one guy they trust,” he said, “and I feel like they trust me enough to go in the game and do my job.”

Skura, by the way, grew up a Steelers fan in Fox Chapel where he lived until the ninth grade. He told the Baltimore Sun last year that he used to carry around a football, pretending to be Jerome Bettis. As a member of the Ravens, however, Skura can’t root for the Steelers -- just like Van Lynn must turn off his love for Duke, at least until after Saturday’s game.

Get the latest news about Pitt football and all things Panthers athletics.