Former Steelers and Pitt defensive back Hank Poteat is back in town as a member of Paul Chryst's coaching staff.
By Sam Werner Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Even though Hank Poteat was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Harrisburg, it's easy to understand why he refers to his new job at Pitt as "coming home."
Poteat, who was hired by Panthers coach Paul Chryst as a graduate assistant this week, is returning to the school where he played four years of college football and the city where he started his professional career.
"I feel like Pitt is home," Poteat said. "Just going back, when I got a chance to go back and meet with [Chryst], being on campus, how everybody embraced me, it was just the right feeling to be there."
Poteat was a two-time All-Big East performer during his tenure with the Panthers (1996-99) and was selected in the third round of the 2000 NFL draft by the Steelers. In a 10-year NFL career that included jobs with Tampa Bay, New England, the New York Jets and Cleveland, Poteat made 197 tackles and four interceptions.
His coaching duties will officially start March 5 when Pitt kicks off spring practices. Poteat will work with the cornerbacks, the same position he played at Pitt and in the NFL.
After retiring from the NFL in 2010, Poteat spent the past two years as the secondary coach at Kentucky Christian University, an NAIA school in Grayson, Ky. He said he contacted Pitt after running into former Panthers quarterback Rod Rutherford at the 2013 American Football Coaches Association convention.
"I wanted to continue to move forward in my coaching career," Poteat said. "So when I went out to the coaches convention, I got a lot of information from a lot of different people. Rod said, 'Hey, why don't you contact someone up at Pitt.' "
Poteat sent his resume to Chryst, who responded a few days later with a text message asking to talk. The two spoke on the phone and organized a visit to Pittsburgh for Poteat. It didn't take long for Chryst to realize that he wanted Poteat on his staff.
"It was impressive and it was energizing hearing him speak," Chryst said.
"We had a day with him and that was enough to validate the things you've heard. He is impressive and I'm excited for him to get here."
Newly promoted defensive coordinator Matt House pointed to Poteat's connection to Pitt, as well as his NFL experience.
"I am thoroughly jacked up to have Hank here," House said. "I can't tell you how excited I am."
Poteat will join a staff rife with former players just out of professional football. Wide receivers coach Bobby Engram and quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger both retired from the NFL within the past five years.
"I think it can be an advantage," Poteat said. "One, for recruiting. A lot of young people, that's their dream to play on the next level. Maybe because we're recently out of the NFL, [we have] that name recognition."
As a graduate assistant, Poteat is not allowed to participate in off-campus visits with recruits. He can, however, engage with prospects in on-campus visits and make phone calls to potential recruits.
"That's something that I enjoyed doing even when I was in Kentucky," Poteat said. "[You] get a chance to develop relationships with the young guys. I give it to them straight. I give them stories of my background and what made me a better player, how I will treat them the same way."
Poteat's graduate assistant position is for two years. His future in the business appears promising.
"Pitt is where everything began for me," Poteat said. "I had a great career at Pitt. Professionally, playing with the Steelers. I started my family here with my wife, had my first daughter."
It's only appropriate Poteat will begin his NCAA coaching career in the same place.