The next recruit to be featured on Pittsburgh Sports Now’s series of Pitt Junior Day Previews is Vinny DePalma, a 3-star linebacker from DePaul High School in Wayne, New Jersey. In November, Pitt became the first school to offer the 6’1” 215-pounder a scholarship, and now Vinny is set to visit the University of Pittsburgh for the first time.
“I’m just excited to get out there and see the campus, and see the facilities,” said DePalma. “I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so it’s cool to get out there, because I know they split the facilities with the Steelers.”
Once on campus, Vinny has been apprised of the general schedule Pitt’s coaching staff has outlined for their recruits.
“I know [of] the basic Junior Day stuff. The coaches are going to address the recruits, I think we’re going to tour the facilities, and then I think we’ll meet with our position coaches…And I think we’re going to the basketball game at 4 o’clock against Florida State.”
Pat Narduzzi has stressed the importance of getting recruits on campus in the past. If he can persuade a player to visit, Coach Narduzzi trusts his ability to sell the university and its football program. This also provides an opportunity for the Panthers’ coaching staff to build a personal relationship with their recruits, which is precisely what DePalma anticipates happening this weekend.
“I’m just really looking forward to getting to know the school and the coaches,” he said. “I mean I’ve been in contact with Coach [Rob] Harley a lot, and Coach [Tim] Salem, and Coach Narduzzi. But I’m just looking forward to getting out there and seeing how everything is in the Pitt facilities…And just making a relationship—that’s the most important thing. Getting to know them better, and making a strong relationship with the coaches.”
While his relationship with Pat Narduzzi is still in the developmental stages, DePalma is already very familiar with the coach’s nationally renowned reputation as a defensive mastermind.
“I think Coach Narduzzi is a great coach,” DePalma revealed. “I mean, I think everyone in the country knows that. He’s one of the most respected defensive minds in the country. I remember when he was at Michigan State, I always admired him. I think he’s doing a great job, defensively and running the program.”
Vinny will be one of the many Class of 2018 recruits on campus this weekend. He has not viewed a list of the other players attending Pitt’s Junior Day, but he knows of one player with which he already holds a close relationship.
“One of my teammates, Khris Banks, is going out there. He’s an offensive lineman. He’s a great player. He’s driving separate, but we’ll meet up out there.”
Aside from Banks, DePalma remains uncertain of whether or not he will run into any familiar faces from the North Jersey area. However, he understands that the recruiting process offers a unique opportunity to interact with players from across the country, and the chance to do so excites this young linebacker.
“I’ll definitely talk to some guys from other places, too, and get their perspective from other parts of the country. I think that’s cool that kids from all around the country can come together, and they’re all there for the same purpose, and get their take on things. I think that would be a great experience.”
Since Pitt offered Vinny, he has received offers from Boston College, Rutgers, and Wisconsin. That list will likely grow in the upcoming months as more schools learn of his on-field capabilities. As a junior, DePalma registered 194 tackles (most in New Jersey), 25 tackles-for-loss, and 7.5 sacks on his way to earning First-Team All-State honors. When the time to select a university arrives, Vinny should have an assortment of schools from which to choose. But does this star linebacker knew when he may offer a commitment?
“I’m not sure. I think I’ll know when the right time is the right time. [I’m] just looking to build the right relationships with the right coaches, and when I’m ready to commit that’s when I’ll do it. But I’m not sure when that is yet.”
Decision day could come at any time for Vinny DePalma, a player that uses words like tough, smart, hard-working, and physical to describe himself. At least at the moment, Pitt ranks favorably amongst those to offer.
“Definitely towards the top,” DePalma said. “I’m excited to definitely go out there this weekend and learn as much as I can about the university and the football program. And then probably after our visit I’ll reevaluate what I like, and what I don’t like, and what the situation is at each school. But I mean Pitt’s a great program—well respected. And Coach Narduzzi’s a great coach. So definitely towards the top.”
By the way it looks, the Pitt coaching staff will dedicate much time over the next few months towards elevating the Panthers from “towards the top” to “on top” of Vinny DePalma’s list.