It's something he's known for awhile, but Wednesday, Upper St. Clair linebacker Dakota Conwell decided to make it official and commit to Pitt. Conwell took an unofficial visit to Pitt during the first prospect camp. He thinks he knew then he would be a Panther. After taking a couple weeks to think it through, Conwell decided today that Pitt was it.
"I feel like I've known for awhile," Conwell said. "I went down there a couple weeks ago. I talked with (head) coach (Todd) Graham. I talked to him and told him I wanted to be a Panther, but I wanted to see some other schools. I decided that Pitt was the right place, today. I called (defensive backs) coach (Tony) Gibson."
Even though Gibson is vacationing, getting the good word from Conwell was even better than getting some time off.
"He was really excited, you could tell," Conwell added. "He told me that I just made his vacation better. He said, ‘Thanks for calling, we can't wait to have you.'"
Conwell also becomes the fourth member of the 2012 Pitt recruiting class from western Pennsylvania. That's something that Graham, according to Conwell, has placed an emphasis on, in some of his conversations with the head coach.
"Actually, coach Graham said the last time Pitt won a national title, they had a lot of western PA guys on that team," Conwell said. "He said in order to take this team to the top, you need to recruit Pittsburgh. We can get a lot of solid players from recruiting at home."
Conwell was recruited by the previous coaching staff, then picked up his offer this spring from the first-year staff under Graham. He says the coaching change was almost a non-factor, but says the increased interest from the new staff paid big dividends in terms of his interest.
"I didn't have an offer (from the previous staff)," Conwell added. "They were interested a little bit, but it didn't really make a difference. I always liked them through the whole recruiting process. From the coaching staff, to the new facilities; I saw how good of an opportunity this was. I decided in my mind that it was right to go to Pitt."
Conwell rushed for 1,085 yards on 167 carries (6.5 avg.) and 16 touchdowns from his quarterback position as a junior. He also completed 62-of-121 passes (51.2%) for 916 yards. The 6-2, 205-pound Conwell is being recruited as a linebacker, and is an ideal fit at the spur position Even though he has been starter on defense since his sophomore year, Conwell talked about how a player such as him—one who is used to having the ball in his hands on every play of offense—translates to being a defensive player in college.
"I think it means you can do all that (on defense), and you're a good athlete," Conwell said. "You get to know coverages a little more because you see the field from the quarterback perspective. Playing quarterback, you're set to be a leader on defense. It helps with all that. I played linebacker first, so I feel it's not something new."
With his recruiting out of the way, Conwell is excited to get his senior season rolling. He's also looking forward to helping recruit some other western Pennsylvania standouts to join him in Pitt's 2012 class.
"I definitely talked to (Gateway linebacker) Jaylen Coleman, and we've both talked about playing together at Pitt," Conwell said. "I'd like to see him come here. I'd like to see (Chartiers Valley receiver) Wayne Capers to come here. He likes Pitt a lot. I'll talk to him and get him to come here."