As the University of Pittsburgh football program went through coach after coach — four head coaches, to be exact, between 2010 and 2011 — Tre Tipton watched from afar, figuring he wouldn’t get to live out one of his childhood dreams of playing for the Panthers.
At the time, Tipton was only a freshman at Apollo-Ridge High School, and hardly on the Panthers’ radar. But with the program in disgrace after seeing four head coaches (six counting interims) in a matter of 12½ months, impressing the Pitt coaches wasn’t on Tipton’s mind any longer.
All that has changed in the two-plus seasons since Paul Chryst took over the program and brought stability back to Pitt. It put Pitt back on Tipton’s map.
Over the weekend, Tipton gave his verbal commitment to Chryst, becoming one of seven verbal commits in Pitt’s 2015 recruiting class.
“Growing up in this area, of course Pitt was one of my childhood dreams,” Tipton said. “But going back to maybe three, four years ago, I didn’t really want to go to Pitt because of the situation that they were putting themselves in with the players getting in trouble, you didn’t know if the coach was going to stay or not.
“The past two years, I just realized everybody wanted to be a part of Pitt, not only just me, but everybody I’ve talked to (in the WPIAL). Just the whole fact that the reputation that they were building there was phenomenal.”
A wide receiver/defensive back for Apollo-Ridge, Tipton finished with 697 receiving yards on 44 receptions with 14 touchdowns as a junior last season. On defense, he collected five interceptions last year, including one returned for a touchdown.
After the season, the Division I offers began trickling in. First came offers from mid-majors Ohio, Massachusetts and Toledo. Then Michigan State began to show interest, and finally, Pitt made Tipton an offer after he attended a prospect camp this spring.
“I really felt like I wanted to be a part of it for a long period of time in my life, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure until about two years ago when coach Chryst came in,” Tipton said. “He’s all about family, he’s all about being a team player. I really feel like that’s the reason why I really wanted to be at Pitt.”
According to Tipton, Pitt is recruiting him as a wide receiver.
“They feel like I can play a lot of places on the field when it comes to receiver, but I’m willing to play anywhere they want me to play as long as I can get on the field,” he said.
Under Chryst, the Panthers have had a prolific passing attack, and they’ve shown a willingness to throw the ball. But Tipton said that didn’t factor into his decision.
“Actually, it wasn’t,” he said. “The main part of my decision is that me and my mother would be able to talk about it. … Pitt really made me feel like I’m at home, and you never want to go too far from your home.”