As head coach at Bedford, Sean Williams is the point of contact for college coaches. At times where college coaches aren't permitted contact with prospects, the volume of phone calls to a guy like Williams increases.
Williams is a coach who truly cares about his players. When you listen to him talk about the values he stresses in his program, it sounds familiar to the values that Todd Graham and his staff talk about. That's why it should be no surprise that the Panthers landed a commitment from his star defensive end Myles Hilliard on Friday.
"What Myles was learning, is that they talked about football very little," Williams said. "Football, that's easy. We have great facilities. We have four guys on our coaching staff that have been in the NFL. (His players) are getting that here. What we talk about here, is we love you as a son. We don't have to talk to you about how to help our program; Pitt wouldn't be here recruiting him if. He really was listening to the things we were saying. He saw what they were saying, the kind of coaches they were. Pitt, it's like the same team."
The initial contact between Pitt and Bedford started with Randall McCray, who has opened up a lot of doors for the Panthers in Ohio. McCray coached one of Bedford's assistants at Wisconsin, Jason Chapman. Chapman was a defensive lineman for the Badgers, and is Hilliard's position coach. Graham has already talked about the importance in building relationships. Here is a good case of what he's referring to. Chapman and McCray had a relationship, which opened the door for Hilliard to have a connection with Pitt. It then opened the door for defensive line coach Paul Randolph to come in and build upon that relationship.
One of the things that struck Williams in the way Hilliard was recruited, was that he was being recruited by his actual position coach, Randolph.
"When (Hilliard) would e-mail, when he would call, they would answer," Williams said. "He's not talking to a receiver coach who recruits the area. He's talking to his defensive line coach. Other schools, it wasn't the defensive line coach calling him back. It's another position coach. They aren't talking to him about anything."
Williams said a lot of Hilliard's recruitment wasn't about football. That was evident in the way Randolph talked to him and Hilliard, but also evident in their initial approach. The way the focus on academics stood out from the beginning is something that really struck the Bedford head coach.
"They did a heck of a job, they called, they looked at transcripts," Williams said. "They were so proactive in their approach. When someone is loving you like this, you have to love them back. He's just put himself in a great situation to move forward."
Some schools like to talk about their track record with getting guys to the NFL. Though Pitt has a strong history there, Williams said that was an area that didn't come up. It was also the right approach, in his eyes.
"We're not talking about the NFL," Williams said. "For the NFL, that's going to be there when it gets there. This is about college, what the program can do for you. The NFL can be short-lived. A degree can be forever. You can get your 15 minutes (of fame) in the NFL. A degree, you can hold on to for the rest of your life, and get a phenomenal job."
Another tactic that impressed Williams, was how Pitt never talked about another school, or tried to put down another school to get Hilliard to see things their way.
"Pitt coaches never talked about another program," Williams said. "Other teams have done that, but the Pitt coaches talked about their own program. That was Myles' thing. His parents got recruited. His father feels very strongly about the Pitt coaches, and what they can do. It all came all together, where he was able to make this decision, and feel very good about it. He didn't want to wait."
Williams also said for Pitt fans that there will be no wavering, or other visits taken by Hilliard. As he talked with his defensive end, he wanted him to be sure Pitt was the place he was going to be, without any second-guessing.
"I'm not one of these coaches who lets his kids takes other visits after making a decision," Williams said. "He didn't want to wait. I did want him to make his verbal, and be dog gone sure that's where he wanted to be."
When it comes to the football part, he feels strongly about how Pitt is going to run things. He also talked about for being an out-of-state school, Pitt has built enough of a presence in the area, that it will truly feel like home.
"There's no better situation than with this young coaching staff," Williams said. "He's a young player, he's 16 years old. He needs more growing, he needs tutelage. He needs what they have. It's a young program. He has a chance to develop as the program develops. Going in with this kid, his interest grew.
"You would have thought Pitt was in Oakwood Village (where Hilliard made his announcement), the way they were recruiting him. The way they were calling, they'd tell me to tell him ‘Hello.' They would call me to ask what he looks like today. The way they responded to me as a coach; I'd email others, and they wouldn't call back. Pitt did."