And if first impressions are a good indicator, Jabaal Sheard should stay ahead of many classmates as well and make an early contribution to the University of Pittsburgh during this upcoming football season.
"I'm just trying to get settled in here and get acclimated to a new area, but that's all part of growing up,'' Sheard said. "This is a great place, and I like it a lot. But the hardest part for me was leaving home and my family.
"That's what I have to get used to. The summer has been nice since we don't have any roommates, but once we get into camp and the regular season it'll be easier for me to fit in. And I'm looking forward to that.''
Pitt special teams coordinator and linebackers coach Charlie Partridge spearheaded the Panthers' recruiting efforts to pluck Sheard from Hollywood Hills, Fla. High School. It wasn't a certainty that Pitt would secure Sheard until Letter-of-Intent Day in February, and the staff didn't even have his signed offer until late that afternoon.
"There was a lot of stress, and I didn't make my decision until the last minute,'' Sheard said. "But when I came up here and the more I talked to everyone, I knew this was the best fit. Everybody was happy to see me, and all the people seemed down to Earth to me. And that's very important.
"Also, there's Coach Partridge. He's a very cool guy, and I like him a lot. He probably saw the type of dude I am. I'm more of a relaxed, calm dude, so we're a lot alike that way. I guess that's what sparked our relationship. And he always came by the school to see me, so that was nice. I really liked that.''
Even though it might appear to some that getting a South Florida athlete to attend college in the north is a difficult task, Pitt has been successful in recent years through Partridge's tireless recruiting efforts. It made the 20-hour drive or long flight to Pittsburgh easier every time.
And it also didn't hurt Pitt's chances that Sheard's mother, Evelyn, really liked the Panthers coaches that she met.
"My mom really liked Pitt over everybody,'' Sheard said. "Coach Wannstedt came and talked to her. Coach Partridge, I think he called her more than he called me, and she liked him a lot. That was real important. I think they recruited her just as hard as they recruited me.
"Sure, I thought a lot about playing at UM (Miami) and staying home, and then I guess I could've gone to Auburn. But Auburn, it was still like a flight away from home, and I liked Pittsburgh better. So, I might as well fly up here. It didn't really matter how far I went, and Pitt was the best fit for me.''
Sheard also noted that he looked at Pitt's depth chart and believed he had a good chance to make an impact on the defensive line this season. And at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Sheard already appears to be physically able to handle the rigors of playing major-college football.
And with Buddy Morris fine-tuning his training, Sheard should be more than ready once training camp begins.
"There's a real good shot for me at Pitt, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity,'' Sheard said. "I think we have a lot of talent on defense, and I can't wait to see how I fit in. As far as my training goes, I think I work out pretty hard. But people told me about Buddy before I got here.
"Everyone said what I should expect when I get into working out with Buddy. I guess all the guys like that are a little crazy, and as long as what he puts me through doesn't kill me it should make me stronger. And that's what I'm looking to do. I want to get stronger and bigger to prepare for the upcoming football season. I'm ready for the challenge.''
Sheard is expected to get his initial work at defensive end, but he didn't rule out playing some at tackle. "Whatever it takes to get on the field,'' Sheard said. "I'll do what I need to do to help this football team win.''
Sheard Looking Forward To Camp
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