Tuesday afternoon Panther Nation was buzzing with the announcement that Charlie Partridge was returning to Pitt to coach the defensive line. Partridge, who served under Pitt head coaches Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt as defensive line, linebackers and special teams coach from 2003-07, spent the last three seasons as the head football coach at Florida Atlantic University. He’s known as a relentless recruiter with strong ties to the state of Florida.
Blustein has nearly 50 years of experience in the south Florida sports media including the role of sports columnist for the Miami Herald on south Florida schools sports and recruiting. “Charlie is one of the most passionate people I have ever been around,” said Blustein. “His knowledge of the game is on par with some of the best. His ability to relate to the younger players is perhaps something that is one of his strongest assets. He will help swing open the recruiting gates in South Florida.”
Former Pitt defensive tackle Rashaad Duncan was recruited by Partridge out of Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, FL. The former All-Florida Class 3A second-team honoree led perennial power Glades Central to undefeated regular seasons his junior and senior season. His on the field performance and stout 6-foot-2 inch, 300 pound frame attracted a number of P5 schools. The Panthers ultimately won his services, primarily due to Charlie Partridge. Duncan played for Pitt from 2005 to 2008 and remains the personification of a “Pitt Man”.
“I think the hiring of Coach Partridge is a great thing. I’m always ‘Hail to Pitt’ until the day I die. Anything that’s good for Pitt is good for me too and Coach Partridge is good for the football program,” stated Duncan. “We go back to when I was recruited by him going back to my 11th grade year. He has always been a good person and a good coach and the players always responded to him. Coach Partridge recently being at FAU is going to reopen the pipeline for Pitt to get more Florida talent to come to Pitt. Especially after Pitt beating Clemson, I think its perfect timing for Coach Partridge to open that pipeline and hurt Florida State as well. He’s definitely going to make a recruiting impact for Pitt.”
Duncan was asked to highlight some of what made Charlie Partridge standout during his recruiting process. He stated, “Back in 10th grade, I came to camp and I had on a nice watch. He joked with me that he liked that watch. I told him ‘If you offer me a scholarship to Pitt, I’ll give you the watch’ (jokingly). The next year I came back to camp and he offered me a scholarship. He looked at me and said, ‘How about that watch?’ It’s just that honestly and relatable personality that he has that makes him stand out.”
“Coach Partridge is more than just a coach. He’s a friend, a father figure and a coach that can relate to the players. Being from the state of Florida, it really helped in my recruiting process. With him you get honest, that urgency that he wanted you and Pitt wanted you. He would tell you about the program and how the school would be good for you as a player and student. He would be there for you beyond practice as well. He’s a true players’ coach.”
Duncan was if he could label Partridge’s style as a coach. What should current players expect from him? “Coach Partridge will pull the best out of you. He understands the role of a leader. He makes you want to play for him,” he said. “It’s like when you have a family member and you don’t want to see harm come to them. You want to make that family member proud, make them feel great. He puts so much coaching and so much into you, as a player and person that you have to put same into your performance because you don’t want to let him down. It’s a pride thing. We still communicate to this day.”
“He’s going to coach the guys on the team to reach their full potential. He’s going to find your talent, make you better and you’re going to want to be better for him.”
Gus Mustakas attended Chaminade-Madonna Prep School in Cooper City, FL. He was named first-team All-Florida Class 2A as a defensive lineman his senior year. He was a dominant, two-way performer at defensive tackle and tight end. Mustakas become only the second player in Broward history to earn two-ways all-county honors. Partridge initially recruited him as a defensive end prospect. He eventually grew into a stout, 6-foot-3 inch, 290 pound defensive tackle. Gus played for Pitt from 2005 to 2009 and remains an active member of Panther Nation. Like Duncan, Mustakas is a former player that bleeds blue and gold.
“It’s pretty exciting for Coach Patridge to come back to the defensive line room where he started. He brings energy and relationships,” said Mustakas. “When it comes to defensive scheming, you have a guy who was just a head coach for a D1 program running your defensive front. It’s incredible to see him make a complete circle back to Pitt. Our university is extremely lucky to have someone like him in a position room and out recruiting as well.”
“When I was coming out of high school, I was only a two-star athlete that was getting overlooked by many of the major universities. He believed in me,” he said. “Coach Partridge came to my practice, we had a several high profile kids, and he sat down with me after practice and really understood what I brought to the football field and my leadership qualities. He was amazing. He’s all about relationships. He could talk the talk, he was extremely smooth, very intelligent and trustworthy. You knew you had a coach you could trust no matter what and he would always have your back.”
Mustakas, more than once, emphasized the impact Partridge would have on recruiting. “(Pitt) had something like 26 Floridians on the roster. It was amazing. There were a number of really high profile recruits as well. Coach Partridge went down and stole these guys from the major Florida programs,” he said. “Guys like Conredge Collins, Steve Dell, Cedric McGee, Jabaal Sheard and Rashaad Duncan come to mind. Coach Partridge sold them on coming to the University of Pittsburgh, sold them on the academics, sold them on the value of the university and stole them away. He was always a great coach, but he’s an impressive recruiter. Coach Partridge is from south Florida and he knows the land and all of the coaches down there. He’s a huge asset to our university both on and off the field.”
Although a decade had passed since Mustakas has worn a Panther football uniform, he had distinct memories of Partridge and his coaching style. “Coach Partridge has a little of everything. He’s someone that will sit down and make sure you understand the schemes. On the flip side, he’s someone that will get after you if you make the same mistake multiple times. He has some fire to him for sure but he’s a player’s coach,” he said. “He’s a complete coach.”
Personal Note: I have covered Pitt football recruiting for quite some time. There are a number of coaches that were simply standouts both on and off the field. Charlie Partridge is one of them. Many years ago, I was writing a piece on Florida football recruiting. I wanted to highlight players that were solidly on the Panthers’ recruiting radar. I called four south Florida high school programs that have generally maintained ‘powerhouse’ status through the years. After introducing myself, the head coaches would state, “You just missed Charlie. He was just here.” He had been to all of the schools that day. The coaches raved about him as a coach and person. I distinctly remember them stated, “Pitt will always be welcome at our school as long as Charlie is coaching there.”
Partridge has a gregarious personality that helps him relate to players and recruits. He bring years of quality experience to Pitt’s coaching staff. He’s a tenacious recruiter. Sales trainer / author Grant Cardone wrote the book ‘The 10X Rule”. The premise of the book is that you need to do ten times more than the competition to leave them in the dust (I would recommend the book to anyone). Partridge is a 10X coach. He produces 10X results on the field. Pitt struck gold once with on the coaching staff. Coach Narduzzi was fortunate to have him return. Wednesday was a great day for Pitt.