That player was Jason Hendricks, defensive back out of Brooklyn, N.Y., who wasn't offered by Pitt until halfway through his senior year. According to him, he also had offers from Temple, Syracuse and James Madison. Once he was offered, his commitment to the Panthers wasn't too far off.
"It was during the season," Hendricks said. "That's when they came out and offered. (Coach Hafley) told me that I'd have a chance to play. They had a safety (Elijah Fields), they didn't know if he was going to come back. I will have a chance to get on the field my redshirt freshman year."
Injuries struck the safety position in Hendricks' true freshman year. Andrew Taglianetti went down in the second game last season, and Fields was also battling injuries at the time. Hendricks was told to get ready to play. Luckily, for him, the duo of Jared Holley and Dom DeCicco lasted through the season, uninjured, and Hendricks was able to save his redshirt.
"Like, real close," Hendricks said, when asked how close he came to playing. "They were trying to keep my redshirt so I wouldn't have to burn it in those first few games. It was putting other people in front of me, so I could have my redshirt."
In some cases, the idea of every freshman football player is to play right away. Hendricks says that's not always the case. Taking the redshirt, for him, was more prestigious than seeing the field as a true freshman.
"I think I needed it too so I could get more knowledge of the defense," Hendricks said. "That redshirt really helped me out so I could know everything about the defense."
Not even two weeks into training camp of his red shirt freshman year, Hendricks found himself lining up with the first-team defense. Dom DeCicco has missed a few practices due to a hamstring pull, while Andrew Taglianetti was bothered by a pulled groin, sustained on the first day of training camp. Even though DeCicco and Taglianetti have returned to action, the coaches have still given Hendricks reps with the first team.
In both scrimmages, this training camp, Hendricks has come up with two interceptions, that he dropped, resulting in passes broken up. He may not have secured the ball, but he has secured a pretty good understanding of the defense. He is clearly confident in his understanding of the defense--arguably his best attribute.
"It feels good that they can trust me," Hendricks said. "I know the whole defense, so it's not a big dropoff."
He has even helped some of the true freshman, as a teach of sorts, to help them understand the defense when they come in.
"It's really kind of hard, the defense," Hendricks said. "You really have to pay attention to details. The way we run our defense, the linemen (play) is key. (As a safety), you have to know everything. You have to know what you're doing in order to play comfortably, and to play full speed."
Hendricks is seeing action as the third defensive back in some nickel coverages, and teamed with Kolby Gray--also a redshirt freshman, Hendricks shows promise for the future. Hendricks and Gray--freshmen, combined with Taglianetti and Holley--sophomores, show this position has the potential to be deep for awhile.
"During the (2009) season, I was practicing with the ones and twos," Hendricks said. "You just have to be ready for your time to come. It just shows I'm ready, and that people that trust, trust me."