Over the last few years, Delaware has been making recruiting Western Pennsylvania a significant priority, and has done so with a great degree of success.
There has been a steady parade of players traversing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to get to Newark, Delaware, with the Blue Hens featuring nine local players this players.
Monday, they added another to that extensive list, as Gateway defensive back Shane Thrift committed to Delaware.
Thift is a 6-foot, 165-pound defensive back and is rated as a two-star prospect by 247 Sports and the No. 49 player in Pennsylvania. He chose Delaware over offers from Wagner and William & Mary.
Thrift will join Hempfield tight end Braden Brose, Hempfield lineman Fintan Brose, Farrell wide receiver Jourdan Townsend, Washington defensive back Daniel Walker, South Fayette defensive back Noah Plack, Steel Valley defensive back Amonte Strothers, South Fayette kicker Ryan Coe, Washington linebacker Isaiah Schoonmaker and West Allegheny tight end Marco Vandamia as local players in a blue and yellow winged helmet this fall.
In fact, that parade of familiar faces is one of the major reasons Thrift is heading to Delaware.
“I wanted it to feel like home, because I’m going to be there for four or five years,” Thrift told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “There’s already a lot of guys up there from the WPIAL. … They text me all the time. It feels like home there. It’s only four and a half hours. … There’s 412 ties up there. They keep the 412 players close. So that was one of the big factors in my decisions.”
The other major factor was the aggressiveness with which Delaware recruited Thrift, who is one of at least three Division I players from Gateway in this recruiting cycle.
“They took a lot of time,” he said. “We were on Facetime every single day. We were texting every single day. They’ll send me edits every day. It just felt like they really wanted me. I had P5 schools recruiting me, but they didn’t recruit me as hard. I feel like I would still get a P5 offer by the end of the season, but I felt like they didn’t recruit me as hard. … No one recruited me as hard as them. I felt wanted.”
Thrift was set to visit Delaware in March, but had his trip cancelled the day before it was scheduled when the campus was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. That’s when Thrift’s connections in the area came through.
“They gave me like a personal tour,” Thrift said. “They gave me a virtual tour, the school side and the football side. I just felt like that’s what I needed to see. I couldn’t go up there and see it personally, but the virtual tour, talking to them guys, just put the jelly on the peanut butter, you know what I mean?
“There was a lot of people in my area telling me go for it and that it’s going to be a good decision. Dee Brown, my trainer for 2 10ths, he called up there and put in a word for me and they’ve been recruiting me ever since. The crazy thing is that my head coach [Don Holl], his daughter goes there. He gave me insight, too.”
At the end of the day, Thrift feels like Delaware is a good fit for him because of the way they recruited him, his familiarity with the players at the school, and a fit into the Blue Hens defense.
“I watched my brother’s recruitment,” Thrift said, referring to his brother, Brenon Thrift, who committed to Temple out of high school, but transferred three times before ending up at West Virginia. “I know what coaches are going to do. Coaches are going to try to butter up things and say stuff that I want to hear just to get me to go there. Delaware just kept it real with me, They said I could go through and play right away, because I’m a versatile player. I can play safety or corner and they play six DBs, so I feel like I can up there and play right away because of that.”
With his commitment behind him, Thrift can now focus on his senior season with Gateway, and with fellow Division I recruits Derrick Davis and Chamor Price, the Gators are confident they can repeat as WPIAL champions and then some.
“I’m trying to win a state championship this year,” Thrift said. “I can’t fall short. It’s my senior season. We won the WPIAL last year, but I need a state ring. … I’m telling you, we’re going all the way.”