Never mind the most direct route from Point A to Point B. Jameel Poteat took an indirect route to get from Point A to…Point A. And now, three years after he finished his standout career at Bishop McDevitt, Poteat is headed back to the place he originally set out for:
Poteat's journey to Pitt started early in his high school career when he was recruited by Dave Wannstedt's staff, and in the summer before his senior year, he decided to verbally commit to the Panthers. The four-star running back prospect was the next in line among Crusaders running backs, a legacy that includes Ricky Watters and LeSean McCoy, and Poteat scored more touchdowns than either of those backs during his career.
In total, Poteat reached the end zone 84 times at McDevitt and rushed for a total of 4,832 yards, including 3,386 yards in his final two seasons. He was a 2010 Class AAA All-State selection by the Associated Press and was chosen to play in the Big 33 Football Classic. But near the end of his 1,724-yard/31-touchdown senior season, his recruitment and his future were rocked by the news that Wannstedt has resigned as Pitt's head football coach.
That turn of events led Poteat to Cincinnati, but his time with the Bearcats didn't produce much. Poteat played in 21 games and carried the ball 57 times for 227 yards and two touchdowns, and after two years he decided to transfer. Stony Brook was his destination, but an ankle injury limited him to just six games and he realized that he wanted to be back at the highest level.
And that meant going to Pitt. So that's what Poteat is going to do: he'll join the team in May as a walk-on, sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer eligibility rules and then have one year to play as a Panther.
"I really should have gone there when I left Cincinnati," Poteat told Panther-Lair.com. "Pitt was where my heart always was, but things were always up in the air. Throughout my college career, I would talk to my mom and she always wanted me to go to Pitt. And I felt like I should have gone there, too; I always wondered about it.
"It's crazy; me and Terrell Chestnut" - the current West Virginia safety who also committed to Pitt in 2010 but decommitted during the coaching change - "I still talk to him and sometimes we say, 'What if we had gone to Pitt?' I don't want to always say that and always wonder, so I'm going there now and I thank the coaches because they didn't have to give me a chance. I'm going to earn it."
Poteat has kept in touch with more players from the recruiting process than just Chestnut. Players like Tom Savage, Pitt's quarterback in 2013 who was at Rutgers when Poteat was getting recruited, or redshirt junior defensive tackle Khaynin Mosley-Smith, who was a member of the 2011 recruiting class and stuck with Pitt through the coaching changes.
"I was talking to Tom Savage because I hung out with him during the recruiting process, and he's like me: he had been through a lot," Poteat said. "So I talked to him and he said the coaches were great at Pitt and he told me how they all accepted him and it was a good place.
"I've been talking to K.K. (Mosley-Smith) and those guys for a long time, and we would joke around about it, about me going back to Pitt one day. So one time I said, 'I'm going to do it; I'll go in and work to earn it.' It's a big decision, and a lot of people will say I should have gone there from the jump, but everything happens for a reason."
Once Poteat decided to make Pitt his final stop, he had to find out if it would be the right fit. That meant meeting a new coaching staff - technically, the fourth Pitt staff he interacted with - and building a relationship with Paul Chryst and the rest of the coaches.
"They're great guys; I've been around a lot of coaches so I know what I'm looking for, and watching the coaches coach and interact with the players, I can tell that they're teachers and that's what I really want," Poteat said. "Coming out of high school, I had love from a lot of coaches, but you never really know what you're looking for until you've been through it
"Coach Chryst is a great guy and the other coaches are great guys, and they said they're looking forward to working with me."
The next step for Poteat is to enroll at Pitt on May 11. He said he's currently 5'10" and 205 pounds, but he's looking to get closer to 210. He's been working on improving his speed with former McDevitt standout/Pitt starter Aaron Berry, and he's got a renewed focus on all aspects of the game as he approaches the final stop in his college career.
"I want to get bigger and stronger, learn the system, be a better student of the game and watch a lot of film," he said. "I'm older and I have experience, so I think I can help the other running backs in the film room and give the defense a good look on the scout team this year."
As to 2015, the lone year he will suit up for the Panthers:
"I definitely want to play. I know James Conner is a heck of a running back, but you need two running backs. The way Pitt's offense is physical, downhill football, you're going to need two backs.
"It's late in my career and it's tough to get a scholarship at a school like that. But I said I will come in and earn it."
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