WVU football: Seider gets settled in
MORGANTOWN - Things could have been a whole lot easier than they were for JaJuan Seider.
He was the recruiting coordinator and the running backs coach at Marshall, preparing for his fourth season with the Thundering Herd and one when he expected the team to be "pretty darned good."
He'd heard his name was thrown around at other schools for various openings. Invariably, a school would lose an assistant coach and Seider would hear about it one way or another.
"Somebody always calls or texts and says, 'Hey, this job is open. Maybe they're going to call you. You need you call them,' " Seider said. "I was dealing with all of that. Jobs down south my name was circulating. I don't get excited until I get a real phone call from somebody. That's when you know."
February had turned to March and the focus was on spring football. Yet on that first day of March, West Virginia lost running backs coach Robert Gillespie to Tennessee. Six days later, Seider was interviewing in Morgantown. A day after that, he was hired. Two days later, he was coaching in the first spring practice.
Things could have been a whole lot harder than they were.
"It was a no-brainer," he said.
He was not free from pain, though. Joining WVU's staff meant parting ways with his mentor, Marshall Coach Doc Holliday. It was Holliday who'd recruited Seider to Morgantown from Belle Glade, Fla., and who tutored Seider when he was a graduate assistant with the Mountaineers. Holliday hired Seider on his first staff at Marshall in 2010.
And it was Holiday who Seider had to say goodbye to first.
"He said, 'I'd be more selfish as a person and as a coach to tell you to stay here. You played there. They're going to take care of you. You've got to go. I can't tell you to stay here,' " Seider said. "That meant a lot to me. It took a big burden off my shoulders to leave Doc on that note."
It was as big of a loss for Marshall as it was a gain for WVU - for the same reasons. Seider fit a need, but not just by sliding into the spot Gillespie vacated on the coaching staff.
Seider stepped right into the place from where Gillespie plucked good players.
"We needed a south Florida recruiter," Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen said, "and he's potentially one of the best ones in the country."
Seider is from the area. He played there. He coached there. He knows the people and they know him. For as long as he can remember, he's witnessed the way colleges have treated the area.
"We give Gillespie credit, but Doc Holliday put a staple on that area for a long time - 30-some years," Seider said. "Being able to watch him do it, I was already prepared to do it."
Holliday first built the road from the Sunshine State to the Mountain State as a tireless recruiter on WVU's staff in the 1980s. Holliday started recruiting Seider in 1995 and Seider was with WVU from 1996-98 before he transferred to Florida A&M and went from being Marc Bulger's backup to the best player at the Division I-AA level.
It was there where he started developing invaluable contacts in the area.
"A lot of the guys I played with are head coaches in the area now," Seider said.
He and Bulger were drafted in the sixth round in the 2000 NFL Draft, but Seider was coaching in high school in Florida by 2001. He worked at three schools the next eight years before returning to WVU as a graduate assistant.
"The best thing about being back here now is when I talk to a recruit, I can actually sell the program," Seider said. "I've been a player here. I've been an alumni here. I've been a graduate assistant coach here. When I talk to a kid now I can sell the program and actually sell what I'm talking about. I'm not going to feed you a bunch of stuff."
When recruiting is involved, Seider values nothing more than authenticity and probably because he believes the same is true of the players he targets.
"The biggest thing with south Florida kids is trust," Seider said. "If you're the coach recruiting them, you're going to have a hard time recruiting them if they don't trust you. If they trust you, they'll go through a wall for you."
Where a head coach oversees up to 85 players on scholarship and walk-ons, an assistant coach recruits a handful of players and coaches a small group every year. High school coaches, like parents, trust the assistant coaches will look out for the player and get involved in matters before the coach becomes involved.
"The coaches down there trust me," Seider said. "They know if I tell a kid I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it."
Seider is honest, educated by his experience as a high school player recruited from a region known as "Muck City" and a college star who returned there.
Now he has been further shaped by his time as an assistant coach. What he sees are college coaches who view the state as an opportunity for themselves and not always the players.
"There are so many guys recruiting kids to say, 'I signed somebody. I signed, X, Y and Z. I signed this many guys,' just to look good for a job," Seider said. "The coaches down there are smarter now. They're not getting caught up in Florida, Florida State and Miami. They're getting caught up in 'What's best for my kids?' "