GCC CB Hayden-Martin picks Pitt | TribLIVE.com
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Kevin Gorman

Chris Hayden-Martin made his reputation in the college recruiting circuit with an MVP performance at the Elite College Combine last month in Randolph, N.J.

Pitt had made the Greensburg Central Catholic cornerback a priority long before then. The Panthers’ early pursuit paid off Saturday, when Hayden-Martin made a verbal commitment to Pitt at its individual skills camp.

Hayden-Martin had 28 scholarship offers — including Alabama, Louisville and South Carolina — but ultimately chose the Panthers over Boston College and Connecticut.

“When Pitt started recruiting me, I jumped on board,” Hayden-Martin said. “Pitt’s been recruiting me since December. That played a really big part in my decision.”

Hayden-Martin said his relationship with the Panthers’ new secondary coach, Chris Ball, was another factor. Ball told the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder — ranked the nation’s No. 18 cornerback by Rivals.com — that he envisions him as a hybrid defensive back who can play corner or safety.

“The way he carried himself and the way he talked made me want to see how he coached,” Hayden-Martin said. “That solidified my decision. He’s a great coach and a great guy. Him and coach (Greg) Gattuso are some of the nicest people I’ve met in my life. They weren’t too pushy. Each time I went down there I learn something new about Pitt.”

After transferring from Greensburg Salem before his junior year, Hayden-Martin had 60 tackles, 20 pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles last season as a first-year starter for the WPIAL Class AA finalist Centurions.

Not only is Hayden-Martin blessed with size and a muscular physique, he has been consistently timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.4 seconds and has a 38-inch vertical leap. He also was one of the top sprinters in WPIAL Class AA track and field, but pulled a hamstring at the Baldwin Invitational and did not qualify for the WPIAL finals.

Hayden-Martin is Pitt’s first WPIAL recruit and third overall recruit from the Class of 2008, joining Johnstown cornerback/return specialist Antwuan Reed and Wilmington tailback Chris Burns.

“The last two years, they’ve had a top-10 recruiting class,” Hayden-Martin said. “When you do something like that, all you can do is go up. I feel like they’re a team where I can be a contributor. I feel like something big is going to happen and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

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