As the offers continued to pile on for Winslow Township receiver Bill Belton, the decision was supposed to become tougher. At least that's how it's supposed to go--the more offers a prospect gets, the more schools he has to think of and consider. Then comes the territory with it--the different coaches chiming in with their respective sales pitch.
All the attention never got to Belton. The other thing that never got to Belton, was the fact that he couldn't get Pitt off his mind. Though he was expected to maybe decide before the start of his senior season at Winslow, head coach Mike McBride wasn't picturing an early June commitment.
"It definitely was, something that kind of, was building up," McBride said. "He had some good conversations with me, then he'd talk with his parents, then he'd talk with me. As he got closer to his decision, as he got very clear, we were very excited. I think Pitt is a very good fit for him."
The first thing McBride advised Belton to do, was to get away from the football aspect of it. Football was the one constant in every school that offered Belton, so why not take a look at each school individually--everything from academics to the town the school is located in.
"As far as the reasons he gave for selecting Pitt over a whole bunch of schools, was how he researched the schools," McBride said. "We're talking about academics, graduation rates, the social aspect of the school, to getting along with players."
After the research?
"He talked about so many things beyond football," McBride added. "You need to enjoy the school. Football is only a small part of it. You are looking to establish relationships. You're looking at going back and forth, four or five hours (from home). There's so many other variables that go into play. The last piece of the puzzle was how he'd fit in the program. Saying all that, from making that decision, we are very excited."
Even though Belton looked at a number of factors, academics was one constant that both McBride and Belton, were drawn too.
"I think it was more the academics reputation and the support system," McBride said. "For his parents to go see (the academic program) in action, that was so big. They got to meet with all the academic people, away from all the football people. Pitt, and all programs they had to offer, the internships, the different corporate connections, the academics is probably what pushed Pitt over."
If there's another factor, maybe closer to the football side of thing, it would be the coaching staff. Keep in mind that every coach that came to Winslow to recruit Belton or any other athlete, is good. Any recruiter is good. That's why they're in that position. In the game of recruiting, however, there's almost minimal room for error. McBride said of all the coaching staffs he met with--and there were a lot when it came to Belton, and a lot that recruited him well--the Pitt coaching staff rose above all else.
"You see a lot of the best in people, and you come across some tremendous recruiters," McBride said. "Tony Wise saw my guys when they were sophomores. They just gravitate to him. When he came into the school it wasn't about football. It was something where him and I had a conversation about someone we knew 20 years ago. The kids heard that, and they see the relationship build before their eyes. When he came to meet Bill, the relationship was established. In essence, Bill felt at home. He could see them building a family. It's a match made in heaven."
Getting a chance of playing early is a big factor for Belton. It's a possibility, but McBride is coaching Belton similar to the way he led him to breaking down all the schools that offered him. It's easy to see the attention that McBride gives his players, why Division I coaches are at his school every year.
"How quickly (true freshmen) play, is strictly up to (the coaches)," McBride said. "If you pick up the playbook, and you understand how they put everything into motion, everything we've gotten to this point, we can't help you get on the field and play. That's a journey (Belton) has to take by himself. He's a very cerebral person. He's taking that challenge very seriously.
"Pitt has two tremendous running backs. There's slot receiver, but they have a bunch of guys there. Maybe he looks at defensive backs, but there's a bunch of experienced kids there too. He just needs to prepare himself from the moment he steps into Pittsburgh. He just needs to be prepared to compete wherever they put him."