Pitt yesterday signed Houston (TX) Cy-Fair cornerback Erick Hallett (5-foot-11 inches, 175 lbs.). Hallett was a new name that quickly appeared on the Panther’s recruiting radar and fans generally knew little about him. To gain perspective on Hallett, Pittsburgh Sports Now reached out to Cy-Fair head football coach Ed Pustejovsky and defensive backs coach Adam Chew.
“Erick is a tremendous football player. He did a whole lot for us here at Cy-Fair high school. He started three years at the cornerback position for us. He did a tremendous job there. He also returned kick offs and punts and he played wide receiver as well. He made some big plays of offense as well,” said Pustejovsky. “He’s truly a talented young man. He’s got great ball skills. He’s very long armed. Erick plays bigger than he is, taller than he is because he’s rangy. Every receiver we went against, many D1 receivers that were taller, he shut them down. He won’t have a problem covering wide receivers in the ACC conference. Pitt is getting a heck of a defensive back.”
“With Erick what you’re going to get is that lockdown corner presence. He’s a guy who quite literally when we game planned each week, a lot of the stuff we did we manned up that weak side. We knew with Erick there we could get rid of that single receiver or turn out to be their best receiver,” said Chew. “We knew we could instantly lock him down, take him out, and all we’d have to worry about is the other ten. So, he’s a guy in short, he’s going to give you that man-coverage presence, that lockdown presence to where you can be very confident that even if he doesn’t have safety help over the top he’s going to more often than not limit his guys, limit his production and possibly even shut him down.”
“This year he had 13 pass break-ups, he had six interceptions. If they completed a ball it’d be in front but he never got beat behind him. He always kept everything in front and did a great job in that regard.”
Hallett emerged as a viable target shortly after Pitt hired defensive coordinator Randy Bates. When asked about the connection between Bates and Hallett, he responded,” I don’t have all the specifics but from what I do know Coach Bates was interested in Erick when he was still at Northwestern, and Northwestern and Cy-Fair, we’ve had a very good relationship for the past 15 years or so. We’d send a couple players to Chicago. Before, Erick was potentially going to go there, but when Coach Bates was hired at Pitt, Erick was his top target from what I understand, at least one of his top targets and Erick appreciated that interest from a defensive coordinator coming down here to make personal contact, that really meant a lot, Coach Narduzzi also.”
“The personal contact I think, and the attention shows, really impressed Erick, very hands on and he was very sincere. What we know about Coach Bates, he’s always going to shoot straight with us. We know he’s in our office and there’s interest in a player; it’s genuine. Erick picked up on that fairly quickly.”
Hallett chose Pitt over scholarships offers from Washington State, Houston, Southern Mississippi, Army, Columbia, Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Memphis, Nevada, Tulane, Texas State, Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana-Monroe and Prairie View A&M.
Texas, Florida and California are referred to as “The Big Three” because they produce the most FBS recruits per state on a yearly basis. It’s not uncommon to see a talented player in these talent rich states overlooked. Many referred to them as “hidden gems” or “sleepers”. Coach Chew was asked if Hallett may have been overlooked by many schools despite his obvious talent.
“Erick did not get as much attention from Texas schools at least the big ones, Texas A & M and Texas, as we’d hoped. We think, you look at his size he has one or two more inches every school is going to come after him, so some of them have a notch where the kid’s just not big enough. Our counter argument was ‘all he does is make plays’. I don’t care how big the kid is, if he’s lacking an inch or two he makes up for it with his reach, he makes up for it with his speed and all that, hand eye coordination. So yeah I think he was a bit overlooked.”
“Houston did offer him a scholarship. Erick told me he likes Houston he likes the program, but he wanted to get out and see a little bit more of the country. And I can totally understand that, so when Pittsburgh and a major city comes and contacts him, it’s another part of the country to look at and he’s really excited about that. To answer your question though, sure, I think he was overlooked a little bit and I think it’s going to be Texas schools’ loss quite honestly.”
Hallett was the fourth defensive back to join the Panthers 2018 recruiting class joining V’Lique Carter from West Palm Beach (FL) Oxbridge Academy, Marquis Williams from Cardinal Gibbons (FL) Fort Lauderdale, FL and Judson Tallandier from Hyattsville (MD) DeMatha High School.
Coach Chew was asked about Hallett off the field. He quickly replied, “Erick, gosh he’s such a great kid. I’ve known Erick for many years now actually I’ve had the opportunity to coach his older brother quite a few years ago at Cy-Fair so there was a relationship with his family already. I remember he was a skinny little seventh-grader he came to our training and conditioning camp and he was pretty weak like all seventh-graders but got into it right away and just had this amazing work ethic, this amazing focus, really blossomed into that leader.”
“He’s going to lead by example, he’s going to call people out if they’re not pulling their weight and what you get on the field with Erick is a direct product of the press he puts in. He’s not afraid of the weight room, he’s not afraid of the conditioning work. He’s going to be up front, he’s going to lead and people will follow him due to his demeanor and his personality,” he said. “When we talk about Erick, we had four other team captains, Erick being one of course, we had five total, those five team captains were our best players, our best leaders and that’s what lead us to the state championship. Guys like Erick Hallett who set the example, who set a high standard and expected others to follow it as well.”
Coach Pustejovsky stated, “As a person, he’s a fine young man. He was a team captain, voted on by his peers. Showed a lot of leadership for us and did a tremendous job in so many areas.”
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru