Recruiting is a lot about building relationships. Assistant coaches--the ones that are really good at recruiting--take time to value their relationships with their players, trying to be aware of all the good players coming up as freshman and sophomores. Such is the case of Mike Haywood, who has recruited players from Monroeville (PA) Gateway, going back to 2004.
Haywood first stopped by Gateway in 2004, when he was an assistant at Texas. Typically, Texas has very little need to travel outside of the state, let alone travel up into Pennsylvania to get players. Haywood was in charge of western Pennsylvania at the time, and was at Gateway to recruit Justin King, who eventually signed with Penn State. Still, his appearance meant something to Gateway head coach Terry Smith.
"That left a huge impression," Smith said of Haywood. "Texas doesn't come to western Pennsylvania often. A school like that, they don't need to leave their own state. When I first met him, he was very down to earth. He didn't come out with some sales pitch. It was more of a, ‘Here‘s what we have to offer, see if you feel it‘s a fit.' He was down to earth, one of those guys that's good to be around."
When Haywood got his first head coaching job two years ago at Miami of Ohio, Haywood came back to Gateway again. This time, he signed two players to his first full class at Miami, cornerbacks Dayonne Nunley and Orne Bay. Nunley finished fifth on the team as a true freshman with 47 tackles, but also started five games this past year for the RedHawks, tying for the team-lead with five interceptions. Smith also sent senior tight end Jordan Stephens to the RedHawks, who got there two years before Haywood got there.
Through keeping tabs with his former players, Smith was able to get an idea of the way Haywood runs things.
"Dayonne said to me that he is a real person," Smith said. "You felt like you could trust him, and you felt like you could play for him. He's been solid from the moment he first met him; it doesn't matter if you're God's gift to the world. If you have the talent and the ability, you're going to have the shot to play. It's what you do with that shot. Dayonne had an outstanding freshman season. (Haywood) gave him that shot. Dayonne made the best of it."
Aside from what he has seen Haywood do for his own players, he looks forward to Haywood being a positive influence in western Pennsylvania.
"Obviously, as a WPIAL coach, we want him to keep the same type of relations that coach (Dave) Wannstedt had built," Smith said. "We don't ask for favors, but we want you to respect our area. It's not so much about if we have a kid, ‘Give him a shot.' It's that you don't have to leave the area to get a kid you can get from this area. There's all kinds of special kids across the country. Yes, you go get those kids, but you don't have to leave the area to get a Rushel Shell in Florida, because there's one right here at Hopewell."