Saturday a ‘Dream Come True’ for Chartiers Valley’s Kuntz

Two days after being signed, Steelers linebacker plays in front over 100+ friends, family

Josh Rowntree
August 18, 2019 - 11:23 am

As a kid, Christian Kuntz wore his No. 99 Brett Keisel Steelers jersey to games at Heinz Field, hoping that maybe, some day, he might get a shot at playing on an NFL field. 

On Saturday night, in front of, he estimates, over 100 family members and friends, Kuntz again slipped on a No. 99 black and gold jersey. But this time was different.

A Chartiers Valley graduate and former three-time All-American at Duquesne, Kuntz made his Steelers debut at linebacker after being signed by his hometown team earlier this week.

“I’ll be home in ten minutes,” Kuntz joked after the game. “I’ve sat here for AFC Wild Card games and watched these guys come out of the huddle and was like ‘oh man, that’s sweet.’ Coming out of the tunnel was kind of surreal… it was like a dream come true.”

Kuntz, who spent last season on the Broncos practice squad as a long snapper, entered the game with only one full day of Steelers training camp practice under his belt, being signed Thursday. 

“They just threw me into the fire and said ‘just play,’” he said. “I’m not going to complain about playing. They were very understanding that I got there Thursday and didn’t get a chance to get many reps in practice.”

At Duquesne, he was the first player ever to achieve All-American status three times, racking up 248 tackles, a school record 30.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and five fumbles recovered. His 71.5 tackles for loss are fourth-most in FCS history.

“Obviously it’s a smaller school," Kuntz said. "There’s been guys in camps and practice squads, but no one has really made it in the League besides Leigh Bodden, I’m pretty sure.”

“I like telling people I’m from Duquesne. They’re like ‘what the heck is that? They see me wearing the shirt and they don’t know how to pronounce it, so I just say it's in Pittsburgh. It’s kind of cool.”

He did not appear on the stat sheet, only playing a handful of snaps at the end of the game. But that did not stop Kuntz from soaking in the moment.

“When we were in our stretch lines, I was making sure to do a couple of extra turns to see everything and see everyone in the stands,” he said. “It was pretty cool to be on the sideline for the game instead of in section 501 or something.”

The history of the number he wore Saturday night is pretty strong. Keisel donned No. 99 from 2002-2014. Before that, Levon Kirkland starred in the highest permissible number from 1992-2000.

“The history of that (number) is sweet,” said Kuntz, with a bit of a South Hills yinzer accent. “Everyone was like ‘what number are you wearing?’ I said No. 99 and they were like ‘oh gosh, now you’ve got to live up to that hype.’ And I’m like, ‘oh, great.’”

The road has not been an easy one for Kuntz, who undoubtedly took a recruiting hit when he suffered a ruptured spleen during a preseason practice in 2011, right before his senior year of high school. 

The injury caused him to sit out his final year of football. He was, however, able to play basketball, a sport in which, a year prior, he won a WPIAL title in and appeared in the state championship game. Leading that team was another Chartiers Valley Colt turned pro, Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell, who also went to Duquesne before transferring to Arizona. 

Kuntz and McConnell are still close, grabbing dinner earlier this week following Kuntz’s workout with the Indianapolis Colts. While McConnell has been able to establish a solid role in the NBA, there is still work to do for Kuntz, who will need to learn on the fly over the next couple of weeks if he’s going to stay in Pittsburgh.

“I don’t even know who was playing next to me,” he said. “I couldn’t even tell you. I’ll just take it day-by-day and hope I’m here the next day and play my butt off every play… I’ll do whatever I can to make the team, especially here in a place like home.”

At the heart of his drive are the lessons he learned while at Chartiers Valley. It is something he has seen McConnell showcase at the highest level. And It is something he wants to prove to the NFL, for his hometown, for his college and for his family and friends.

“Just work hard,” he said. “It’s kind of instilled in us. It’s a Pittsburgh thing.”

Hear more from Christian Kuntz below.