Feb. 22, 2012
In joining Paul Chryst's Pitt coaching staff, Joe Rudolph made a return to his Western Pennsylvania roots. A product of the Mon Valley, Rudolph was a football star at Belle Vernon Area High before going on to an All-Big Ten career, athletically and academically, at Wisconsin under famed coach Barry Alvarez. Rudolph has coached at Ohio State, Nebraska and, for the past four years, Wisconsin, where he was part of a pair of Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl berths. Rudolph, who will serve as the Panthers' offensive coordinator and tight ends coach, sat down to discuss his Pitt appointment, the WPIAL and the building blocks for a successful program.
What was attractive to you about joining Coach Paul Chryst at the University of Pittsburgh?
"First and foremost the opportunity to work with Coach Chryst. Knowing the type of coach and man he is, it was a very attractive opportunity to continue my association with him. In addition, both my wife and I are from the Western Pennsylvania area - I grew up in Belle Vernon and she is from Weirton, West Virginia. We have two children, a four- and three-year-old, and this was a great opportunity to reunite them with family and give them the feeling of home that my wife and I both had growing up.
"We weren't motivated to leave Wisconsin. It is where I went to school, played football, and it was a tremendous situation. But this was a really unique opportunity to come back. Our feelings for Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania are immense. It is great to be at an excellent school like Pitt and we're looking forward to getting this thing going."
Would you get back to Belle Vernon often?
"I would recruit Western Pennsylvania while at Wisconsin so I used to get back there often. Obviously at Pitt our opportunities are even greater. My brother and aunt live there now. I always enjoy getting back to Belle Vernon."
At Wisconsin, the offense always seemed to play to its strengths - it wasn't just a run-oriented offense or pass-heavy offense. It adjusted to its personnel on an annual basis. Is that the approach you will take here?
"Absolutely. The great thing about Coach Chryst as a person who has had so much success putting together offenses is his humbleness. I always talk about him running an offense without ego. He truly tries to identify the best players and put those players in the best situation to succeed. Growing the offense in the direction that helps our players feel comfortable and maximizes their strengths is something he doesn't hesitate to do."
February has probably been a very busy month for the staff.
"It is incredibly busy right now. We are working to get to know our players - truly get to know them as people. We're evaluating our team on many different levels. At the same time we're getting familiar with our new surroundings - everything from our practice facility to the university and the city. On the personal front, we're looking for homes and working on moving our families. Recruiting, of course, is always a huge priority and something that is very time consuming but very exciting. Everyone on the staff has great ideas and we're attacking it as a group. That's been a fresh and fun experience."
You are a product of the WPIAL. How much of an advantage is it that you know Pitt's recruiting backyard so well?
"You have to be really excited that Western Pennsylvania produces an incredible amount of football players. The coaching is outstanding. Having such a strong recruiting base in the region is a real advantage. As you expand through the rest of Pennsylvania, you find that the passion for the game runs through the entire state and you're supported by great coaching and development of student-athletes. That development goes beyond the field - the kids understand the importance of academics. There are just a lot of things in place to help you identify good prospects and hopefully get them to Pitt."
How do you view building a team and program?
"You break it down to its smallest parts, looking at the individual coaches and players. You want to create a program where your team is greater than the sum of the parts. You can have great players but not necessarily have a great team. That's our goal - to allow the team to grow and come together and, ultimately, be greater than what those individual players would be by themselves. That's been the case with the teams I've been around that have been most successful."
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