For all intents and purposes, the recruitment of South Charleston’s Derrek Pitts ended when he set foot on West Virginia University’s campus in Morgantown in January as an early enrollee.
Technically it ended with a ceremony on National Signing Day surrounded by friends and family Wednesday at South Charleston High School, flanked by longtime teammate Lawrence “Nunu” Cunningham, who signed as a preferred walk-on with the Mountaineers.
Wearing a plain white T-shirt and a smile for the most part, Pitts exuded a loose and celebratory demeanor and admitted it was a great relief to finally end what was a long and at times chaotic chapter of his life.
“It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Pitts said. “I’ve got to respond to one coach only, that’s my head coach. ... I have to please one person, I don’t have to please the whole country with my decision. It’s just good.
“That’s the best choice I’ve ever made. I feel excited about this choice I made.”
Pitts emerged as one of the most highly recruited players in the state and defensive backs in the country, earning a three-star rating on 247sports.com and a four-star rating on Rivals.com among others.
On July 27, 2016, Pitts held a ceremony at Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill restaurant on the West Side and gave a verbal commitment to Penn State, selecting a Nittany Lions hat over Tennessee, Maryland, Florida and West Virginia. Several other Division I powers were in the mix as well.
But on Oct. 3, Pitts decommitted from the Nittany Lions before announcing on Twitter two weeks later that he would instead attend WVU. The tweet read, “I’m coming HOME!!”
That sentiment was echoed again on Wednesday when Pitts was asked what the final deciding factors were that led to his change of heart.
“This is my home,” Pitts said. “I wouldn’t want to leave this place. This is home for me.”
Pitts was alluding to the state as a whole but he admitted there has been some adjustments that have had to be made since moving from South Charleston to Morgantown. Pitts said that process is still ongoing.
“It’s a blessing to have [Cunningham] coming up there with me next year,” Pitts said. “When I come here I feel at home, but now that I’m at WVU I have to make that my home also.
“My mom wanted me to be a part of this. Since I have been up there, I didn’t really have any excitement or signing day or anything, so she wanted me to come back and get that feeling.”
Part of that adjustment is learning the ropes and schedules of being a football player, and another part is adapting to college life like every other college student has to do.
Pitts admitted it has been a little overwhelming at first, but that he feels he’s starting to settle in.
“I come in, I’m up there weightlifting and everything right now, getting used to the program and talking to coaches and trying to get involved with everything,” Pitts said.
His days include 6 a.m. workouts, something he said he wont mind seeing come to an end when spring football begins.
But like his decision to become a Mountaineer, Pitts said his choice to go to Morgantown early was the right one. He feels he will be more prepared when practices start.
“Six in the morning workouts and getting used to everything, if I would’ve came in the summer, I wouldn’t have been used to that,” Pitts said. “It’s a good thing I’m getting into that early.
“I’m getting a great relationship with the lifting coaches, the head coaches, the assistant coaches — I’m getting to know everything — the system, I’m getting to know my classes. I’m coming in a step ahead basically.”
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @RPritt on Twitter.