Coming out of high school in Tupelo, Miss., Pinson had offers from schools such as Memphis, but believed he had the talent to play at higher levels of Division I. As a wide receiver, Pinson loved getting his hands on the ball, so offense had always been his choice, but he didn't have the offers he was looking for despite racking up good numbers during his prep career. He then decided to prove himself on the field, and made plans to enroll at Mississippi State as a walk-on, where he believed he would prove himself and earn a scholarship. At that point, a series of events led to the near U-turn that led him to West Virginia.
"I graduated in 2011, and I was set to walk-on until I learned that I didn't qualify," Pinson said. "I came up just short, and it happened at the last minute, so I couldn't go to Mississippi State. Then ICC (Itawamba Community College) came up, and I went there for 2011. I played a couple of games, but in the third game I got hurt and missed most of the season. After that, I felt like I was in a stage where things weren't going to go right. I thought that maybe ICC was where my career was going to end. But I kept my head held high. I thought, ‘This is not the end of the world. It's an obstacle that I have to get past.' I prayed a lot, and that helped."
Pinson also made the decision to change positions, something that was suggested to him as far back as high school. Again, this major change meant an entirely new direction for him.
"Coming through high school people told me I should have played defense anyway, because I'm big and physical. But I didn't listen. I wanted to have the ball in my hands. But then I realized that you have to have great players around you to get noticed at wide receiver. You have to have a line that blocks and a great quarterback. On defense, you can make your own way and show you can play. So I decided to switch."
That move led to great results. After recovering from his injury, Pinson played in all nine games this year while filling out the stat line in every way possible. He had 36 tackles, including 25 solo stops. He had five pass breakups, four interceptions and recovered a fumble, and also blocked a kick. He noted that his experience as a receiver helped make the switch to defense an easy one.
"Playing safety I can read the offense easier. I know the routes, and I can recognize them. I know what the receivers are thinking and doing, so that made it a lot easier to learn the defense."
Pinson loved his first visit to West Virginia, which he made in the company of his mother.
"The trip was long, but when we got there the fans really stood out," he described. "The atmosphere at the game was great. They have diehard fans. It's a difference from what we have down here. It's hard to explain, but they are just more outrageous, more crazy. The whole stadium was doing the wave, and they were all just really into it.
"The coaches were really good too, and that's the other reason I decided to commit. Coach DeForest has kept in contact with me a lot, and talking with him and Coach Holgorsen was really good. I talked with some of the players about the coaches, because sometimes they will tell you the coaches are different from what they show you, but the players I talked with said they were real. They told me what you see is what you get, and I liked that. I think the only adjustment I'll need to make is to the weather. They said they had a couple of inches of snow earlier this week, and we never get that here."
One of the players Pinson spoke with a lot was Travis Bell, and he was glad of the match-up. He and Bell got along well, and Pinson noted that he was happy the coaches chose him for his host.
Pinson is attempting to graduate in December, and should know the results of his efforts in about a week. He said he was waiting on one grade in one class that will tell the tale. He will have three years in which to complete his final two seasons of eligibility.
Pinson said that he told teammate Ronald Carswell, who also committed to WVU over the weekend, about his pending commitment, but the two didn't trade a lot of notes on the trip.
"We didn't discuss it, but I told him I was going to commit and he told me all the things he was liking about the visit, so I told him he should go ahead and commit too."