California Kid Comes East

When Cody Kessler first stepped foot onto the Pitt campus, many believed that his initial trip to the Northeast also would be his last.

Sure, there are those who believe it's a long shot for the 6-foot-2, 218-pound quarterback from Centennial High School in Bakersfield, Calif. to commit to the Pittsburgh football program, but Cody Kessler believed otherwise. He spoke with as he and his dad began the long trip home Monday night after a two-day visit.

"It's not really a long shot at all, because I wouldn't have come out here for a visit if I wasn't interested in Pitt,'' Kessler said. "Just looking at the situation they have here with Coach Wannstedt and Coach Cignetti both being in the NFL before, the staff they have, they all have really good connections.

"And they run a pro-style offense. I really loved everything about Pitt. The distance comes into play a little bit, and I have to think about how far it is from home. But for me to find the right school, the best place for me and where I fit in the best, if I have to come all the way across the country to do that, I'm fine with that. And my parents will support my decision no matter what.''

Kessler also has a visit planned to Boise State April 8-9, but nothing else is scheduled after that. He said that while there is no specific timetable to pick a favorite, he would like to get it done before his senior season.

"When I'm 100 percent sure that it's the place for me, I'll make a verbal commitment,'' Kessler said. And after talking with him for a short while, there's no reason to believe that Pitt won't be in the mix.

"The biggest thing I have to look at is the relationship I have with the coaching staff, because I'm going to be there four years of my life,'' Kessler said. "I have to make sure they're looking out for my best interest, that they'll help me become a better football player and a better person. I won't really have any family there with me except for my coaches and my teammates.

"So, that makes this decision very important. On one hand, I guess it would be better to be closer to home, but that's what college is all about. Getting away from home and growing up in a different environment, and if I think Pitt's the best place for me to do that and it's a perfect fit for me then I'm not going to wait. I'll commit. Whenever I make that decision, I'll commit.''

Along with Pitt, Kessler has offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Fresno State, New Mexico State and Washington State. The Panthers might not have an inside track, but they certainly have a strong connection to Kessler with offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti.

"When I was a freshman, I went to the Cal team camp and worked out with Coach Cignetti for three days,'' Kessler said. "He kept in contact with me, and we've been talking a lot lately. So, I've known him for a couple years now.

"And he's a great guy. I talked to him a lot this past weekend and watched him closely during practice. This definitely is the type of offense I can see myself playing in during college. I really enjoyed that experience this weekend.''

Kessler asked Cignetti if he was going to stick around a while, because if he committed to Pitt he didn't want the staff to break up during his career with the Panthers. Cignetti answered affirmatively.

"He told me they were going to be at Pitt for a long time,'' Kessler said. "So, that was good to hear, because I have a good friend who committed to a school and then was out of luck when the coach left. But the Pitt coaches told me they weren't going anywhere anytime soon. They assured me of that, and that made me feel a lot better about the situation.''

Kessler noted that he spent the most time this past weekend with Pitt quarterbacks Andrew Janocko and Pat Bostick, fullback Henry Hynoski and defensive tackle Myles Caragein. He also spoke with quarterback Tino Sunseri Monday, and all the players discussed recruiting and Pitt with Kessler.

"We hung out a lot, and they answered all my questions,'' Kessler said. "They really made Pitt sound like a great place, and that's what I thought about it anyway. (But) I had never been to Pittsburgh before this past weekend.

"I've never been anywhere past Texas before, so this was my first time on the East Coast. And I really enjoyed it. We went to Alabama earlier in the week and then finished out our trip in Pittsburgh. It was a great trip.

"And this is a very exciting time for me with recruiting and everything,'' Kessler added, "but it's kind of overwhelming, too. It's great that all these schools are taking interest, and it's just proof that all the hard work I've put in is paying off. So, it's really exciting, and I'm loving every second of it.''

And he thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Pittsburgh.

"It definitely was worth the trip,'' Kessler said. "Everything here was awesome. I got to watch a practice (Saturday) and got to meet all the coaches and talk to them. So, it was great. We walked around the campus, and I really liked it.

"I really loved it. Me and my dad went to Heinz Field, too, and that was great. We pretty much saw every part of Pittsburgh and the campus that we needed to, and it was awesome. I loved everything about the city and university.''

And that sounds like Kessler could make a return trip to Pitt and maybe stay a lot longer after that.

Panther More Top Stories