Paul Chryst took a step closer to completing his coaching staff, as he named 14-year NFL veteran Bobby Engram as his receivers coach. Engram—who played as recently as 2009—spent this past season as a member of Jim Harbaugh's staff with the San Francisco 49ers as an offensive assistant. His responsibilities dealt a lot in breaking down film and working specifically with the receivers.
He comes to Pittsburgh to perform similar duties, only with an official title as wide receivers coach.
"It was a phenomenal experience," Engram said of his experience in San Francisco. "It was like three years rolled into one (because of the lockout). It helped us and our staff, to get to know one another on a personal level, to watch a ton of film and understand the personnel we were dealing with and what we liked about the offense. We were blending a couple different philosophies. I'm very grateful to the 49er organization for them giving me that opportunity."
The connection with having Paul Chryst's brother Geep Chryst as 49er quarterback coach led him to Pittsburgh. He added that coming to Pitt wasn't something he sought out. It was more of Geep recommending an ideal candidate to be his brother Paul's receivers coach at Pitt.
Interestingly, Engram has had a house in nearby Murrysville, Pa., for the last 13 or 14 years. His wife is originally from the area, which makes it all the more convenient for Engram to come to Pittsburgh.
"I met a cute, little Penn Hills girl," Engram joked. "Basically, I've been living here on and off for the last 13 or 14 years."
Engram had a chance to meet some of Pitt's receivers this morning, informally. He hasn't had a chance to sit down and look at any game film, but he says he was impressed with the group he met this morning.
"I've met about six or seven of them this morning, it went extremely well," Engram added. "They took the initiative to come in, which says a lot of them. I talked to them a little bit about my philosophy. I'm excited and ready to go."
In terms of recruiting, Engram said it's too early to figure out which area he's going to be assigned to. With no previous experience recruiting, he has a pretty good idea of not what he wants to accomplish in terms of recruiting—but how he wants to be personified.
"I think the University of Pittsburgh sells itself," Engram said. "This is a phenomenal university, and I'm excited conveying what this (coaching) staff is all about. We want to see how (prospects) are fitting in or not with the program, how they fit into the offense. I genuinely love people and have a passion for young men, being able to part some knowledge and make a difference at an age where they're more receptive to learning. I don't have it all figured out, but I look forward to learning."
He says he can look back on his own recruiting experience, and think back to some of the things that he learned as a high school prospect himself.
"I can draw on that experience some," Engram added. "It was the guys that were confident in their school, confident in what they're doing. I will tell the kids and parents the truth and not just what they want to hear. Hopefully we can go out and get some tremendous talent. That's the best way to approach it—just put it all out on the table."
Throughout his career, Engram has been around some monumental coaches in the industry—Joe Paterno, Mike Holmgren and now Jim Harbaugh. He says in terms of his own philosophy, he's able to draw a little from each coach who's made an impact on him.
"I don't think I can pinpoint any one thing right now," Engram said. "All three guys were tremendous leaders, great communicators. That's one of the things you help with the guys producing. It gives them confidence to go out and play at a high level; communicate with them and have them prepared."
With the passing of Paterno this week, Engram also talked about how in a way the impression left by Paterno not only made an impact on him as a player. He stayed in touch with Paterno long after he graduated from Penn State in 1996, and eventually looked up to him when he wanted to enter the coaching profession.
"I called Joe and consulted with Joe," Engram said. "We had a lengthy conversation. He gave me sound advice as always. Hopefully I'll be able to make him proud.
"Joe did have some influence. You listen to the memorial service, the resounding message—forget football for a minute, lets talk men and the influence he had in our lives. It was about the men and how he cared for the men and stressed education, the things that are very important. I think that's why he's had a tremendous level of respect. I can't imagine how he had time to talk to us, but he did. It was or wasn't what you wanted to hear, and you appreciated it."