The visit was a ten

How many times has it happened with a packed house and stands full of recruits did the Panthers not win the big one? Well history did not repeat itself Thursday Night as the Panthers defeated West Virginia with U.S. Army All-American Rico McCoy in town for his official visit, and close to 75-100 recruits taking in the game as well.

Rico made the trip to Pittsburgh from Washington, D.C. with his father Reggie, and twelve year old sister Diamond. Read on as gets the exclusive details of Rico's trip to the "Burgh".

Official Visitor: Rico McCoy
Host: Wednesday Eric Thatcher, Thursday Derron Thomas
Arrival: Wednesday 6:00 PM

Washington (D.C.) St Johns College four-star linebacker Rico McCoy (6-2, 215, 4.55) is a star, and a difference maker. The charismatic U.S. Army All-American is the kind of player that can jump-start a program like Pittsburgh's. McCoy can go to just about any school of choosing, if football was his only worry. McCoy is not like normal high profile football recruits, thanks in part to his father Reggie who keeps his son level headed and grounded. With Reggie there's more to college than being a big time football player who ends up in a football factory without a degree in hand.

"I am like any father, I want my kids to do better than me," said Reggie McCoy "There will be more than just football that factors into my son's decision."

Upon their arrival in Pittsburgh on Thursday evening Head Coach Walt Harris and Running Backs Coach Wayne Moses whom is recruiting Rico met the McCoy's. Rico also met his host red shirt freshman defensive back Eric Thatcher. The crew then departed for dinner and discussion at The Cheesecake Factory. Upon completion of dinner it was off to the Peterson Events center for a meeting with the academic staff and the Pittsburgh-Robert Morris basketball game. The academic standards were something Reggie was very eager to discuss.

"I wanted to know the number of African-American athletes that graduate from Pittsburgh," said Reggie McCoy "This guy gave me my answers, and I was impressed. These are people who take great pride in what they do."

The McCoy's only got to see part of the Basketball game, but came away impressed with the facilities.

"That place was something else, my little girl thinks it's nicer than the MCI center back home," said Reggie McCoy

Rico got to see the dorms, but due to team policy the football players stay in a hotel the night before a game. Rico didn't stay in the dorm but got to check them out anyway.

"The dorms were nice, I didn't spend a lot of time in them but they were nice," said Rico McCoy "I got to talk to the players and talk about where they are from and how they like it there, it really seems like they have great chemistry on the team, I really like how the coach's interact with all the players.

The McCoy's got the chance to eat breakfast and lunch with the players. They took tours of different parts of the campus. During the spring they got a chance to see the UPMC South Side Facility, but they refreshed their memory.

"That place is unbelievable, and when they tell you the Steelers have the exact same stuff on the other side of the building that is impressive," said Reggie McCoy

Reggie and Rico were hoping to finally get the chance to talk to Linebacker Coach Curtis Bray, which they did after breakfast.

"We only talked to him maybe once or twice, and we needed to get a feel for him," said Reggie McCoy "He is a real good guy, he was straight forward and told us what to expect."

There was a buzz about the team as they arrived at the stadium at 6:00 PM,  the recruit decided to take it upon himself to give a motivational speech to the team during their dinner.

"It was nothing to serious, just a motivational type thing," said Rico McCoy "I told them that they are a family, and families have to stick together and fight until the end, no matter what they stick together through everything. Just like any family you mess with one you get it from the rest."

One of the most important parts of their visit was to get the chance to talk to Athletic Director Jeff Long about the future of Head Coach Walt Harris.

"I told him straight up the reason we are here is because of Walt Harris, and we need answers. What are you going to do with my coach?" said Rico McCoy "He looked us right in the eye and said Walt Harris has always been his man, and is my coach. He has two years remaining on his contract at the very least. He told us he has never discussed the coaching situation with anyone and that it was the media that took it and tried to make it into something that it never was."

Rico got to talk to the player's as they took the field for pre-game, each one of them slapping him five and treating him like he was already part of the team. Several other recruits came up and talked to Rico, including several prominent players from the Maryland area.

The McCoy's watched and cheered as the Panthers and Mountaineers did battle. The family cheered and shouted for the Panthers. Did they become fans or just become excited in the heat of the moment?

"It was a family thing, you hang with these guy's all day before a fight, so you stay with them through the fight," said Rico McCoy "There was just some kind of natural bond there with the team and the coaches," said Reggie McCoy During the first half the parents and seniors were recognized, as the parents returned to their seats Bob Petitti father of all-everything offensive tackle Rob Petitti looked at Rico and told him he reads about him all the time and hopefully he'll play at Heinz Field someday, That was touching to Rico.

"That took me by surprise when the father of one of the best player's in the country says something like that to you it's nice," said Rico McCoy "The whole time I was their everyone treated me like a part of the family, the players, the coach's, and the fans."

Towards halftime Reggie took in a Western PA delicacy Quaker Steak and Lube Louisiana Lickers chicken wings, often considered the best in the country. So how did they stack up?

"Those were some darn good wings," said Reggie McCoy "My daughter talked about those things the whole way home."

Throughout the game it became apparent to the McCoy's that a lot of true freshmen and red shirt freshmen were getting serious playing time.

"It would be a great opportunity for me with all the young players," said Rico McCoy "Coach's all tell you you'll play early, but I got to see it here."

The McCoy's continued too watch as the Panthers continued to struggle, but thanks to three Josh Cummings field goals they stayed with-in reach. Then towards the end of the game Tyler Palko crossed the goal line and gave the Panthers the lead and what would be the game-winning touchdown. West Virginia appeared as if they were going to drive down the field and either win the game, or force over-time, but the defense held. Palko again took off running gaining a first down on the change of possession and sealed the deal for the Panthers. The two game WVU winning streak was over, and the Panthers had won the big one in front of a large number of prospective recruits. Unlike the Miami game a year ago, when it seemed like the loss to the Hurricanes sealed the Panthers fate with a number of highly touted recruits McCoy say's the outcome didn't matter to him as much as the effort.

"They played hard, even if they had lost I was proud and it wouldn't have affected my decision at all," said Rico McCoy

After the game Rico and all the other recruits had the opportunity to go to the Panthers locker room and share in the celebration. Unexpectedly Rico had a active part in it, as several members of the team called him into the middle of them and thanked him for his earlier speech, they felt like he had a part to play in the big victory. Rico took the floor again and told the team that they showed tremendous heart and courage out on the field, and they showed how bad they wanted to win.

"Guy's like Malcolm Postell came up to me and said no matter what you decide we're with you, that felt good nobody tried to pressure me they just showed love no matter what that was nice," said Rico McCoy.  Despite the cancellation of his previously scheduled (12/10) visit, McCoy had stated he was curious about Pittsburgh. Curiosity killed the cat but it may have put the Panthers in the lead for McCoy's services.

"I would say this trip was a definite "10", it exceeded everything I imagined, said McCoy "I'm planning on taking trips to Ohio State, Tennessee, and North Carolina, but Pittsburgh will be there right until the end for sure."

As for Diamond, she has a brother Reggie who is a red shirt sophomore at Syracuse. Now she has another school to compare it with, whom does she like?

"I like Pittsburgh," said Diamond McCoy

Whether or not it was Pittsburgh or those wings, Rico was glad his little sister was happy.

"She's my biggest fan, so it's cool if I wind up there she already likes it. She'll always be at my games." Said McCoy

McCoy has a scheduled in home visit with Ohio State on Sunday, followed by an in home with North Carolina on Monday, Pittsburgh will have an in home with Rico after they finish the regular season against South Florida this coming weekend.

It appears that just like the season, the Panthers have gone from pretenders to contenders for the service's of one Rico McCoy.

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