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Pitt Football

Local Evolve 2Tenths Athletes Seeing How Pitt’s Growing Culture Impacts Recruiting

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If there’s a top local athlete in the Pittsburgh area, there’s a good chance Dee Brown and Von Madden are involved.

Evolve 2Tenths Speed & Agility is Pittsburgh’s premier football training program, with Madden’s non-profit Shadow Student Athlete Development Services providing a way for the local kids to also excel in the classroom and off the field, and the top recruits from the area work, train and play for Evolve.

Since being founded, if there’s a local Pittsburgh recruit (Aaron Donald, Ta’Mere Robinson, Skyy Moore, Joey Porter Jr., and so many more successful college and NFL players), they’re with Evolve.

And with the proximity to Pitt, Brown and Madden often use the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex as a training site for their players. So, the local kids, dating back over the last decade, have been getting an up-close and personal look at Pitt’s facilities and teams.

There have been those local kids to stay home, players like Damar Hamlin, Paris Ford and Dayon Hayes, but that’s not always the case anymore. However, Madden feels like the vibe around Pitt is as strong as it’s ever been right now.

“The coaching staff seems very relaxed, very confident, inviting, welcoming,” Madden told PSN. “Not saying it wasn’t welcoming before, but the overall aura of the program makes it easy — especially when you win. It feels no different from walking into any big-time program.”

In taking Evolve to camps and tournaments across the country, traveling to schools like UCLA, Florida, Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State, he feels like Pitt has that same exact aura around its own program now — especially with its players.

The current squad of players, with the exception of Jordan Addison, has really bought into Pat Narduzzi and Pitt. Madden has seen first-hand how the players are more relaxed and confident, moving with a different sense of purpose.

And the middle school and high school kids that are brought to the Rooney Sports Complex get to see that interaction with the Pitt coaching staff and its players, but it had been years since a group of recruits had been able to tour Pitt’s offices.

The current group of Evolve athletes, sophomores and juniors in the classes of 2023 and 2024, were able to actually go into the locker room, walk around the coaches’ offices and have access to see exactly how a major Division I program runs.

For many of them, despite being around Evolve since elementary school, it was their first time seeing the facility. Madden said that Cory Sanders, Pitt’s defensive back coach, was shocked to hear that. Since Evolve is always around, he thought that they were getting closer looks. It was a big deal for the kids; they were just excited to be able to walk through their local school’s facility.

Sanders and Archie Collins, Pitt’s cornerbacks coach, made it happen recently. They said if Evolve named a date and time, they’d have 100 percent access. And Madden said if that door is open, they’ll bring the kids every time.

Pitt’s culture, which is boosted by the current coaching staff, is one that Madden feels is well-equipped to keep local kids home. It doesn’t matter who the coach is typically, it matters if that coach is able to transcend culture, beliefs and thought processes to be able to relate to 16- and 17-year-old kids. With some of Pitt’s past staffs featuring older coaches, Madden said there were some struggles in being able to relate to local kids and secure commitments.

“Unfortunately, they struggled with recruitment,” Madden said about past staffs. “It was real dry. It worked if you had an older family, an older dad, older mom, two-parent household, and the older coach was able to speak to them. But then you have a lot of kids that were coming in, they might come on a recruiting visit and they’re coming in with a coach. Or with a third party entity, sometimes their first contact might not be with a parent.”

Along with a current staff that is thriving because of the level of reliability with its players and recruits, Pitt’s on-field success last season is a recipe that Madden sees for continued success moving forward. After all, Pitt is already usually the first school that arrives for the local kids.

Photo Courtesy of Damar Hamlin

Photo Courtesy of Damar Hamlin

“It’s extremely local because no matter what, once a kid becomes a three-star, four-star, five-star, as a camp, Pitt was always No. 1,” Madden said. “They’re always looking for Pitt to offer first. They’re always looking for the local team to have success. A lot of our student-athletes don’t wish to travel far, they would rather stay home.”

However, Madden said that Pitt really needs to continue to court the local kids. The most important step of the process is getting in early, making that connection and continuing to foster growth will help in landing local commitments. In fact, Madden said that one thing Penn State has done to stand out locally has been courting its recruits early and often. Penn State operates like a business, like a Google, with James Franklin serving as the CEO.

“I’ve been at both institutions,” Madden said. “One thing that Penn State does very well is they court, they court kids. They court the parents better, they court the third-party players better. We’re considered third-party entities, they’re always inviting us up, and we drive to Penn State three or four times a year before we even get to go to Pitt. And I don’t think it’s intentional, I think Pitt just assumes that since we’re there, we’ll come over. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault … but there’s still a level of planning.

“Pitt has the same facilities, Pitt still puts guys in the NFL. … Process is key to a lot of these young dudes in Western Pennsylvania, and because they’re introduced to a process.”

The Evolve kids have been with the program since sixth grade in some cases. The class of 2025, one of the newest classes, has already been on visits to MAC teams like Toledo and Bowling Green for years. Madden said with the way the kids have been courted, filling out questionnaires and going through the process, there’s a familiarity there. If that process continues into their actual recruiting process, it can change the way a kid views a school.

“I think Pitt is doing a phenomenal job just with the atmosphere alone, that’s the first and foremost thing that stuck out to me,” Madden said. “Pitt’s atmosphere is top tier, it’s phenomenal, and when I said it on Twitter, people were kinda shocked. We get this perception that we don’t like Pitt, people always assume that, but I play neutral.”

The atmosphere, the facilities, the on-field success, the coaching staff and program have impressed Madden. And now it might just come down to courting the recruits that much harder. A prime example is 2023 four-star linebacker Ta’Mere Robinson from Brashear.

“I know Ta’Mere, he wants to leave Pittsburgh,” Madden said. “It’s not a Pitt thing, so he’s like, ‘I don’t want to be in Pittsburgh, I want to get out.’ But that means they can still land him. I wouldn’t even say super hard, you just have to provide other avenues and get him. If you want him, you’ve got to get him. … You’ve got really court these dudes.”

The 2023 recruiting class is gearing up to be a very, very big one for Narduzzi and Pitt, even without recruits like Robinson, but Pitt’s continued growth and relaxed, inviting culture could help turn the tide in making sure recruits like Robinson and Rodney Gallagher don’t leave home.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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DL
DL
6 months ago

When Robinson does go to a school other than Pitt I hope fans realize that’s his choice to go away that doesn’t mean Pitt is at fault or let him get away. Some guys just want to go some place new and he’s not a bad kid for doing so.

Justin Dietrich
Justin Dietrich
6 months ago
Reply to  DL

Can’t blame anybody for wanting to get out of Pittsburgh. Great place to visit, but I’d never live there again.

ec2it
ec2it
6 months ago

I say something similar to most places I visit. I wasn’t born or raised in Pgh but chose to raise my kids here !!

Jim
Jim
6 months ago
Reply to  DL

LOL…Going to state penn isn’t going away…:

On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim

It probably feels like it thousands of miles away, yet still close enough for family. True college setting with 110k on campus stadium and Penn State football is the only game in town. Pittsburgh is a pro town.

Richard Johnson
Richard Johnson
6 months ago

Some kids just want to experience new things in life, see new places, see how people live in different parts of the country. Pittsburgh is a great city, I grew up there, but, I will never move back.

On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
6 months ago

With Robinson predicted to PSU and Gallagher seemingly heading there as well it seems PSU is doing it better as the article stated. Then, when they see 110k fans at a home game it’s very tough to beat that and a BigTen schedule.

Jim
Jim
6 months ago

They do the recruiting bit very well…They have been very disappointing in The coaching and winning the players are getting drafted on their athletic ability alone

On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim

very disappointing on the winning end? Have you compared their record to Pitt’s over the last 5 years? What do you think Pitt would do in the BigTen East every year?

Justin
Justin
6 months ago

Best psus sry behinds!! Win a title then talk pls. & miss me with the strength of acc vs big 10! Big 10,outside of osu. Has been nothing BUT OVER rated & most of the country sees the same thing my dude! All them 4-5 🌟 recruits yet how many make it compared 2 pitts?? The level of recruits Pitt is actually getting real instrest from this yr. Has been years of HARD work from this staff. & here they r,giving themselves a fighters chance finally. 2 land top flight classes. Just ⌚ what happens then…

On Campus Stadium Please
On Campus Stadium Please
6 months ago
Reply to  Justin

I’ll try to understand whatever language you are speaking above. What do you mean by title? Their BigTen title or National Championships? To say the BigTen is nothing but OSU shows your lack of football knowledge.
What do you mean “make it”? NFL draft picks this year, or will you just say Aaron Donald and Kenny Pickett? If things are so great why did Addison leave? Getting interest and PWO’s doesn’t cut it in the ACC and definitely doesn’t cut it in the big boy football of BigTen East.

Dukes

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