Even though Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark was never a running back in his days at LSU, the fastest way to the field as a freshman was through special teams. At that time, Mike Haywood was the special teams coordinator for the Tigers.
"He's an extremely intelligent guy," Clark told Panther Digest. "He was very fiery as a special teams coordinator. (Special teams) is where I played my freshman year. He's always making sure you're in the place where you need to be, and teaching you how to be successful. He did it with passion. You can see it got him to the point where he is now."
Again, though Haywood was not Clark's position coach, he could still see the fine line between disciplinarian and friend that Haywood was at LSU.
"He's a guy you can talk to on a personal level," Clark added. "He's got his ‘X's and O's' but it was never total separation. When it was time for football, he's solely focused on winning and competing. That's what I respected about him. At the same time, you don't want a coach that's above the team. Players have to play. He's that type of guy."
Clark, who is well familiar with the football culture in Pittsburgh, had this to add about what Haywood will do for Pitt.
"If he wins, (Pitt fans) will like everything about him," Clark said. "That's the bottom line. He's a proven winner. That's what Pittsburgh is all about. He'll do well."
One of the things Haywood will have to deal with when he comes on board, will be whether he'll keep any of the current Pitt assistants on board, and how many he'll keep on board. He too was in that situation once at LSU, when Nick Saban came on board after the 1999 season, to take over for Gerry DiNardo. Saban kept Haywood on as a holdover from DiNardo's staff. From the sounds of things, Saban didn't regret his decision either.
"Mike Haywood is one of the brightest young coaches in college football and he did an outstanding job for us at LSU," Saban, now of Alabama, told Panther Digest. "He certainly did a fantastic job at Miami in turning that program around. None of this news surprises me because of what he brings to the table in terms of his energy, his enthusiasm, his knowledge of the game, and his ability to recruit. I think he will do a great job at the University of Pittsburgh."
After spending eight seasons at LSU coaching running backs and overseeing special teams, it was back to his home state of Texas, to coach the running backs at Texas. In just two years in Austin, the Longhorns went 20-4. Thursday, on the day of Haywood being hired at Pitt, the Panthers seem to have picked up a big fan in Austin.
"Mike is a tremendous football coach and a great hire for the University of Pittsburgh," Texas head football coach Mack Brown told Panther Digest. "He's a bright, energetic and enthusiastic guy who helped us have very successful seasons in 2003 and 2004 and did a phenomenal job in turning things around at Miami. Mike is a great coach and person who has proven he really understands how to build a staff and a program. I'm really looking forward to following him at Pitt."
Stay tuned for more coverage, as Pitt gets set to officially name Mike Haywood as its 35th head coach in program history.