By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Pasadena Weekly Executive Editor

Shea Pitts understands the responsibility that comes with being a Bruin.

The redshirt reserve linebacker from Agoura Hills flexed his cerebral muscles and was named a 2021 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar of the Year semifinalist. A devout Christian, Pitts is entrenched in the community, lending a hand where needed.

Pitts, who wears No. 47 like his former football player father, Ron, said the sport gives him the platform to share his love of community. For this, he was named UCLA’s nomination for the Wuerffel Trophy, college football’s premier prize for community service.

“We use our platform as a UCLA football player to impact the community,” he said. “People say, ‘I want to play football. I want to do this or do that.’ You have to have good grades and a sense of community or none of that is possible.

“If you’re not good academically, they lose that opportunity. Sports will then take care of itself. There’s more to life than football.”

Although the quarantine made volunteering difficult, Pitts did his best. He donned masks and gloves to help with a school event in Inglewood. He also participates in a mentorship program for high school students.

“Football has given me the opportunity to play at a school like UCLA,” he said. “The school is highly academic and competitive. I wouldn’t have been able to get into UCLA without football. The game has given me and my family so much.”

A former UCLA star himself, Ron Pitts is a veteran of the Buffalo Bills and the Green Bay Packers. He’s a tenured Fox Sports broadcaster who hosted three nationally syndicated shows — “NFL Hardcore Football,” “NFL Under the Helmet” and “Destroyed in Seconds.”

Besides his father’s support, Pitts looks to his faith for guidance.

“In this world, there are going to be some things that are beyond our control,” he said. “Thankfully, I haven’t had to go through anything too hard.

“I feel on this Earth, it’s hard to be able to get through certain things. You’ll need to look up to a higher power. I’m a Christian myself. If I have no one else to talk to, having a god to talk to is really inspiring.”

Thanks to his father and grandfather, football talent is innate for Pitts. Growing up, football was the common denominator around his house. Pitts always wanted to play, though his mother worried about injuries. Still, he pursued his dream.

“Football wasn’t really a job in high school,” Pitts said. “Now football comes with a lot of responsibility. It’s about balancing priorities and cutting out the outside noise and not going out places you shouldn’t. I keep a good balance between things.”

Staying consistent is the key to success on the field, he said.

“Everyone around you is the top player in their area,” he said. “You’re competing with players on the team. It’s easy to have a few good days, but to be good every single day is the challenge.”

To keep up, Pitts stays in shape year-round, but the pandemic made it difficult. In between seasons, he takes a week to relax and then hits the gym. With gyms’ forced closures due to the pandemic, Pitts hit fields and tracks to run.

To get pumped up, he listens to hip-hop and reads Scripture to “keep my mind right.” It was tricky to stay calm during his college debut, which was at Oklahoma — a 88,000-capacity sellout.

“That was a surreal experience,” he said. “I told myself, ‘That’s the hardest it’s going to get mentally. It’s not going to get any louder than that.’

“After that, I wouldn’t say it’s gotten easier, but the crowd doesn’t get me too nervous. I’m just happy to be here.”