The decision was pretty simple for Kraig Howe. It was his fourth unofficial visit to Pittsburgh, his recruiting coach Joe Rudolph continued steady contact, and more and more, Pitt was just starting to feel like home.
"I've been in for two game days (New Mexico, Notre Dame), I came in for a spring visit, and a summer visit," Howe said. "Each time I came in, I had this feeling. It was a great fit for me. This time, sealed the deal. My family felt it, and this coaching staff believed in me at an early age."
Rudolph started recruiting Howe, early on, building that relationship, as he's done with many kids since he's been here. After his third full swing at recruiting at Pitt, we're starting to see Rudolph's efforts on some of those younger kids pay off in the form of commitments.
Howe talked about what makes Rudolph an easy guy to identify with.
"Coach Rudolph is one of the best guys I've been around in this business," Howe said. "He expressed how they felt about me, how they felt about me still. He is a real guy--simply that. I have not found anything in him that is not even trustworthy. He's honest, he's a good person, a great coach. He's one of the few guys who recruited me that gave me space. Obviously, he's a busy guy. I'm busy. He gives you that space, it's respect."
Defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield was also a factor on these last two visits. While Rudolph paved the way in his recruiting efforts, Breckterfield gave him some more insights about playing defensive tackle at Pitt.
"(Breckterfield) recruited me during basketball season, he came in the winter," Howe said. "He grew on me, quickly. He is a good teacher, and I like how he treats his players."
It's going to be tough on any defensive lineman coming to Pitt for the next two years, as Pitt looks to fill the void left by Aaron Donald's graduation. Even the current crops of defensive linemen admit that no one is looking to replace Donald. Add Howe to that list. However, he says Donald's play, the season he had in 2013, has put Pitt on the map for attracting defensive linemen.
"Coach Rudolph shared some highlights with me, of Aaron Donald," Howe said. "I watched him during the (NFL) Draft, watching how he works. He went up against bigger players, and he used his leverage. His senior season, his success rubbed off on me."
And that is something Pitt fans should be excited for--Howe's work ethic, and his desire. He says it comes from his family, and his Archbishop Alter team, where state championships are expected.
A look at some of the recent players that have come out of Alter; 2013 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Chris Borland, and other Wisconsin players Connor Cummins and Cody Byers. Alter is also home to New York Jets center Nick Mangold (Ohio State), and Nick Coleman--a classmate of Howe's that is committed to Notre Dame. Not to mention Malik Zaire, a 2013 Notre Dame signee, who could end up with the starting quarterback job in South Bend. Greg Hart, another 2013 signee, is a redshirt freshman tight end at Nebraska.
That's an impressive list for any high school, especially one that highlights recent successes. It's clear that going after programs like Archbishop Alter--these are the types of programs, more specifically the type of players and individuals, the Pitt staff wants to add to its program. Howe is the latest addition.
"Chris Borland came from here, Coach Chryst and Coach Rudolph coached several guys from my high school," Howe added. "Alter is all about producing top-quality athletes. It's expected of us, and it's pretty cool to see a small private school like ours produce so many big names. Part of it is the work ethic. The other part, is our motto, 'Get Our Stuff Done.' It's expected of us, and it's great having high expectations year in and year out. It makes us all better."