Donovan Riley came in for last year's spring game, a Pitt prospect camp over the summer, and November's Backyard Brawl. He knows enough of the campus and the city. Still, he had three pretty important reasons for coming in for a visit on Saturday—aside from being a participant in the NLA 7-on-7 passing tournament.
Prior to making any visits to Pitt, there had to be some initial interest in the school from somewhere. Riley said he first started taking a look at Pitt when his cousin, sophomore linebacker Carl Fleming, signed on to play for the Panthers in 2009.
"I used to watch Carl's games a lot in high school, I used to watch him play deep safety and wide receiver," Riley said. "He's a freak, a freak of nature quite frankly. When he came up here, I could never get up here until last year, in the spring game. He's been making me like Pitt a lot because of what he goes through and how he's humble, and how he puts in a lot of hard work."
As for this past weekend, Riley had a few goals in mind to get a better understanding—both of Pitt, and where he stood. He needed to meet the new coaching staff, watch their practice to get a feel for the new tempo that Pitt plans to run and most importantly get a feel where Pitt stood in terms of offering him. For starters, he felt he got the right impression from the coaching staff.
"I sat down with (co-defensive coordinator and linebackers) coach (Keith) Patterson, my father and (tight ends) coach (Tony) Dews," Riley said. "They were just talking about how they will help me become a better man and a better football player; and my future at Pittsburgh.
"I think they're down-to-earth guys. I think that's the thing I'm looking for the most. They're the kind of coaches I want to be around. I want to be around coaches that are going to be here for a long time. I look for stability. I don't want to go to a school where the coach is bouncing around."
This impression came from Patterson and Dews, initially. Defensive backs coach Tony Gibson picked up in the recruiting of Riley when he was brought on board. Riley has the same impression of both Gibson and head coach Todd Graham.
"I talked to coach Gibson when he was in the office," Riley said. "I caught coach Graham when he was walking into practice. I shook his hand and said, ‘how you doing?' I didn't get to spend too much time with him, but he knew who I was when I came through the door."
"They really want to offer me, but they want to take it slow," Riley said. "They want to get to know me a little bit more. They want to get to know my parents. They want to get to know my coaches."
As for the practice part of his visit, it doesn't seem like that did anything to deter from his interest either.
"I watched them practice, and it was a real neat experience," Riley said. "The tempo was intense. I liked the defense. The defense was playing like it was a game. I got to see my cousin (sophomore linebacker) Carl Fleming. After practice, we had a tour of the facility. They gave me a tour of the Hall of Fame; the Hall of Fame section. They walked me through all the offices, showed the outside, showed me the weight room, that new pool."
As for anything else that stands out about Pitt?
"The fan support, the fans will always be there for you," Riley said. "When I went to the West Virginia game, the fans hung in there. They didn't leave. It was a good experience overall."