PITTSBURGH — If you want to play for new Pitt head football coach Mike Haywood you better start beefing up on your horror movies.
More specifically, take a trip down Elm Street.
Haywood said Freddy Krueger exemplifies exactly what he wants in each and every player that plays for him at Pitt.
“Everybody thinks that Freddy Krueger’s dead and all of a sudden Freddy Krueger keeps coming back,” Haywood said. “You have to be dangerous and relentless for 60 minutes.”
But while the movie character is rough around the edges, Haywood and his players will be anything but. He made it clear that his style is straight forward and based on discipline and doing things the right way.
Haywood ran a military-like outfit at Miami University. He made sure players wore a suit and tie to and from games and that they were clean cut and shaven.
An approach and mindset that start before arriving at the stadium, he said, will help achieve results the entire team desires.
“It’s part of my culture,” Haywood said. “When I was a young man I went to an all-boy private school in Houston. At certain points and times we always had to wear a coat and tie. My father always said you’re gonna play like you look. So I thought it was always important that you looked and dressed appropriately.
“As a player at the University of Notre Dame we wore a coat and tie to every game. I’ve never walked out of the locker room or walked in to a locker room without a coat and tie on since I was 18 years of age. I think it’s really important that gentlemen dress like they play. When you walk in to a stadium and you’re dressed nice, you feel good about yourself, I believe to a certain degree you get a little jump start.”
Athletic director Steve Pederson said Haywood’s attitude is exactly what the university wants and needs.
“Coach Haywood is a man of integrity, a man of character and a true inspirational leader for our football program,” Pederson said.
Another example of Haywood’s strict approach is his practice schedule, which starts every day before 7 a.m. It started in an effort to eliminate off-field issues at Miami and paid off in game preparation as well.
“On Tuesday and Thursday you practice at 6:50 in the morning and you’re off the field by 10:30,” Haywood said. “Classes start at 11:15. On Wednesday you start practice at 6 in the morning, you’re off the field at 9:30. It eliminated the problems in which we had with student athletes uptown because football was so important to them that they were not gonna go out the night before they had to practice and not come in and give a great effort if they wanted to play.
“When we played Northern Illinois, we walked off the practice field that Thursday morning and didn’t play until 8 o’clock Saturday night,” he added. “We had 56.5 hours of rest prior to us starting to run again.”
So Pitt players will likely get somewhat of a culture shock, as many of Haywood’s points are different from the way former coach Dave Wannstedt operated. Players arrived to games in Pitt sweat suits and practiced around 2:30 p.m. under Wannstedt, who the reputation of being a friend to the players.
Neither approach guarantees success, but Haywood ensured that his came from what he learned by working with successful coaches like Lou Holtz at Notre Dame, Nick Saban at LSU and Mack Brown at Texas.
The hope is he can make the name “Pitt” sound as prestigious as those.
“I’ve taken my style from the best of all the guys in which I’ve been with.”
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog