In the Dawg House: Special Edition – Signing Day
By Steve Gephart
Look, the Dawg knows some of his previous columns on this year’s recruiting class have seemed at times… maybe a little sappy.
I admit it; I have been overtly excited about this class since the day Dan Loheyde became the first recruit to verbally commit to Pitt last March. The events of the last week have obviously not diminished my enthusiasm for this class one bit. Picking up star recruits Elijah Fields and McKenzie Mathews finished off an unbelievable class, according to Scout.com, for the Panthers and Wannstedt.
By the way, I’m not surprised at all that Coach Wannstedt was able to be successful his first year, even though the Panthers were coming off a sub par season. That’s because I was fortunate enough to have met him early into his era as the head coach of the University of Pittsburgh. I was introduced to the man and his plan at an alumni event held in Philadelphia on a beautiful day last spring. He’s a very nice and gracious person, without any pretense. He truly is what everyone who has met him portrays him to be: a down-to-earth, good natured guy.
The event ended with Wannstedt giving an impromptu speech to the small enthusiastic crowd that had assembled to meet him. There was much excitement in the room to hear out the man responsible for elevating Pitt from a consistent winning program to an actual annual national contender. I remember what impressed me most about Pitt’s new coach was that he not only had a plan, but that he was so genuinely adamant about seeing it through.
The Dawg absolutely loves strong displays of leadership; this coach’s ideas had him drooling with excitement. Who wouldn’t be upon hearing such a concise and effective plan of taking Pitt football to the next level? Wannstedt was resolute in pointing out that it wasn’t enough to say the program is going to be great, but that everyone associated with the program also had to exude it as well. It wasn’t enough to discuss the program’s goals and the plan to achieve them, everyone involved had to live and breathe it every single day. I believe his words were “to be the dream.”
And if anyway knows Coach Wannstedt personally, please tell him I’m sorry if I don’t have the words exactly right.
I definitely understood what he was implying.
That is why I believe it’s the commitment and loyalty to Wannstedt’s grand vision for the program that is still the most important quality this class possesses. These kids know it’s going to be hard, and that there will be tough times. But they are here because they believe in their head coach’s plan for success. And more importantly they believe in him. They aren't going to bail out on the program if the team has another bad year.
Truth is, they want to be the dream their head coach envisions for the future of Pitt football
And that's how champions are built. To the Dawg, that's what always separated the University of Miami from some of the huge big programs over the years, the fact their players and recruits always believed in what the "U" was about. Most of the kids that played there went to Miami high school football camps (which are legendary) for years before they committed. They took pride in being a part of the Miami Hurricane legacy.
And that's what we are starting to see at Pitt as well. Remember, Miami’s administration was ready to pull the plug on their football program right around the time Dan Marino and Hugh Green were Heisman Trophy candidates. Yet somehow twenty five years later the program has evolved into a perennial top ranked team and national contender. Not only did Miami elevate its program quickly, it did so under several completely separate coaching staffs. Although Miami might have had several regime changes over the years, the one constant was that the persistent winning attitude always remained the same.
It’s this attitude that Dave Wannstedt knows well, considering he actually lived, breathed, and succeeded because he was a part of them. It’s not the name, the facilities, the coaches, or even the talent that make the Hurricanes so awesome. Sure, all those factors have contributed to the overall success they have had at Coral Gables. But those qualities are more byproducts of the success than the cause of it. Dave Wannstedt knows that and his recruiting class knows it as well.
They are proud to be Panthers, and they are excited to build a legacy at the University of Pittsburgh, one that has been missing for over twenty years. The previous head coach at Pitt just seemed more concerned about his coaching philosophy than the overall attitude of the team. Dave Wannstedt set out on a mission to change the attitude and mindset of this program from inside out. Seeing the final product of all his recruiting efforts proved he accomplished his mission with this year’s class.
And that is the most important cause for Pitt fans to be excited. This class is indeed that DREAM we’ve ALL had for the future of Pitt football.