Hokies Aaron Moorehead Uses Pro Experience, Personal Connections to Succeed on Recruiting Trail

Virginia Tech wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead at Virginia Tech's 2014 Media Day. [Mark Umansky]

Virginia Tech wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead may only be 33, but he's already starting to feel like an old man.

Before Moorehead ever thought about coming to Blacksburg as a coach, he played receiver in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts, winning a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning back in 2006.

Now, when he goes out on the recruiting trail to talk to high schoolers, memories of him in a Colts uniform that were once vivid are starting to fade a little.

"The kids were like seven years old when I was playing there," Moorehead joked about his time in Indianapolis. "But for the last couple years the players will know me, the coaches all really know who I am. For the next coming generation, the kids are starting to not know because I've been six years out, seven years out."

Nevertheless, he says it's still a major turning point for recruits when he can explain that he's been where they all want to go.

"It's fun, they know that you were part of a Super Bowl team and that resonates really quickly," Moorehead said.

Since joining Tech's staff in 2013, Moorehead has been able to use his playing experience and affable personality to become one of the Hokies' strongest recruiters.

But it's not just his time in the NFL that's helped him be so successful so quickly — the relationships he built in Indianapolis have helped him start drawing talent from the area, even if the city is nearly 500 miles away from Blacksburg.

"He just knows the town really well," said Tony Henderson, head coach of Indianapolis' Arsenal Technical High School. "The younger guys know him from his time with the Colts too, so it really helps them put a name with a face."

Moorehead did more than just play pro ball in the city. Although he was born in Colorado, he grew up just a few hours from Indianapolis in Deerfield, Illinois.

He's since been able to rely on his knowledge of the area to pinpoint recruits that the Hokies should target in the area.

"Moorehead came up here to our college day in the spring, and I know he knew about us because he went to high school around here," said Mark Bless, head coach of Indianapolis' Avon High School.

Even if he's not targeting receivers in the area, Moorehead can still kick things off by connecting over his roots in the Midwest before passing off a recruit to a specific position coach, like he did with Avon junior QB Brandon Peters.

"He really hit it off with Brandon," Bless said. "Then he told (Coach Scot) Loeffler about him and he visited up towards the end of the school year."

Other times, he'll handle the bulk of the recruiting process himself, like he did with 2015 DT commit Eric Whitehead of Indianapolis' Lawrence Central HS.

"I'd heard of him before he contacted me, but I didn't know he was a coach for the Hokies," Whitehead said. "I talked with Coach (Bud) Foster a little at first, then Coach Moorehead came up and visited me a couple times during the school year."

From there, he was able to forge an instant connection with Whitehead based on his knowledge of the area's high school football landscape.

"He knew all the schools I was playing against," Whitehead said. "He said I was doing well against schools he knew did well in the state championships, and that was one of the reasons he wanted to recruit me."

Moorehead credits that knowledge as giving him a way to establish a quick rapport with kids that might have never previously considered a Virginia school like Tech.

"Before I even knew in life I'd be at Virginia Tech, I watched Darren Evans play high school football because we used to go to their games because they were so good," Moorehead said. "When you tell a kid that 'I used to come watch your team play when I was playing for the Colts,' they get excited and that's a fun thing for them."

Although Whitehead is the only recruit from the area to commit to Tech so far this cycle, Moorehead has also been hot on the trail of Indianapolis CB Adonis Williamson, a childhood friend of Whitehead's.

"I still have a lot of contacts up there," Moorehead said. "I know a lot about the city, and I try to use it to my advantage."

But for all of his time up in Indianapolis, Moorehead isn't limited to just the Midwest — he's also Tech's primary recruiter for the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area.

Although he lacks a personal connection to the region, he's still found fast success there as well. For the 2014 cycle, Moorehead was able to reel in Maryland products Cam Phillips and Melvin Keihn, a pair of 3-star recruits according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

He's been able to build on his time with other coaches that have ties to the area to make up for his own lack of experience there.

"I came in (to Tech) and they said 'hey we want you to go in and be there,'" Moorehead said. "I spent time when I was a GA at New Mexico with Coach (Mike) Locksley, and when I was at Stanford with Pep Hamilton and Dave Shaw, both of those guys have recruited Maryland and D.C. ... so I was kind of familiar with a lot of the players and a lot of the coaches already, and all I had to do was get in there and meet the coaches myself, so it was a smooth transition for me."

Moorehead worked with Locksley when the latter was head coach of the Lobos, but his roots in D.C. have since helped him land a job as Maryland's offensive coordinator.

Similarly, Hamilton — now the Colts' offensive coordinator in a show of just how circular the football coaching world is — went to college and coached in the district, while Shaw coached for the Baltimore Ravens from 2002-2005.

Given that trio's recruiting prowess, it's safe to say that Moorehead got a world-class education on the subject, and he says he needed it to keep up in a hotly contested recruiting region.

"There's some really good recruiters in the area so you've got to be on top of your game and you can't let anything slip," Moorehead said. "You've just got to go up there and fight, there's (defensive line coach) Larry Johnson (at Ohio State) and (head coach James) Franklin up at Penn State and Locks at Maryland. I think it's good for me to be out there because it makes me work really hard."

Proving his point, Moorehead is currently locked in a battle with the Buckeyes' Johnson for 2015 WR Lawrence Cager of Towson, Md. The Hokies will have to hope that Moorehead's diligence pays off against such fierce competition.

"I've been talking to Moorehead since my freshman year. We just talk about life, we have a great relationship," Cager said.

Even if he can't reel in Cager, Moorehead has already had some success in region in 2015, helping the Hokies bring in CB commit DuWayne Johnson from D.C.'s H.D. Woodson High School.

"He recruited me harder than any other coach from any other school," Johnson said. "We talked every week, and he came to my school every two or three weeks."

Johnson might not be close to Moorehead's old NFL stomping grounds, but he still valued hearing about the coach's pro experiences.

"He'd say he played at the highest level, and that was a big thing for me," Johnson said.

But more than his personal ties or quality training, it seems that the biggest thing that sets Moorehead apart is his personality.

"He's just a cool guy," Whitehead said. "He's serious when he needs to be, staying on you, asking about if you did well in class, but he's always joking with you."

Maybe that sense of humor will help keep Moorehead feeling young, even as his days with the Colts get forgotten.

"He's a really great person to talk to," Johnson said.

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Comments

But more than his personal ties or quality training, it seems that the biggest thing that sets Moorehead apart is his personality.

I think this is the key. Never met the guy, but he seems like the type that knows when to be tough and when to play. Knows that this is a game and a career. Just a real down to earth, trustworthy kind of guy and that speaks volumes to almost anyone, and recruits, players, coaches, media respond to him. My favorite hire of the new staff and really hope he stays around for a long time.

chopping wood indeed...

EDIT: again, awesome work Alex. cannot express how much I am loving all the new content you and the others are adding in to the already legendary work of TKP

Agree. Hope he is on staff for a long time.
http://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdcjtzwluO1qddt4do1_500.gif

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

That's fantastic! I always think the same thing when I see him.

Hear hear. Alex you are, as they say, killing it.

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

I really like this guy and who he is trying to bring in and is actually bringing in thus far, keep up the good work!

Damn the Man! Save the Empire!

'01, Bravo Company, Hokies, Midshipmen, Lakers, Dodgers, Nationals, da Raiders.

You brought a personal side to someone Hokie fans are interested in, Moorehead seems to be a good person who will represent Hokies well. Great writing, Alex!

Man, The Key Play's all grown up now. Like with legit reporting and recruiting news and interviews and everything. Kudos, Alex. Great article. And more kudos to Joe and staff for building this thing into the behemoth it is now.

It was a catch

^^^This! Seriously, with the added staff getting us this content, the press credentials increase which gets better access, the breadth of coverage is increasing. What else can a TKPer ask for?

Waiting for humorous, get us through Monday, replies in 3, 2, 1...

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I'm going to regret this but...

What else can a TFPer ask for?

What's the "F" stand for?

fonetiK?

Doht!! Thanks, fixed it.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

It would be nice for coach Moorehead to add an ACC or National Championship to his NFL rings .

Both!!

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Aaron Moorehead Uses Pro Experience, Personal Connections to Succeed on Recruiting Trail.

All that, plus:

big axe

All that, plus:

What would we have to do to bring that home -- beat Michigan and Michigan State in the same year?

We could do that.

Or we could just show the picture to Sam Rogers and say "Engage Retrieval Subroutine".

My God that's beautiful

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

Could you imagine Metallica playing in front of THAT!!

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

In addition to his NFL connections, I'm assuming he brings in his half brother Vince Vaughn on some of the recruiting trail too, right?

"And it is caught, it is caught for a touchdown"

Please give him and T. Gray whatever coin they need to stay at VT forever !

Whit better increase his pay or someone is going to steal him from us.

ChicagoHokie

He IS a great guy. Neighbor of mine until we just recently built new house in Bburg. First time I met him he brought a piece of our mail over...he lived a block away on a differerent street but we had the same house number. His daughter and my 2 y o played together a few times at the neighborhood playground. Very easy to talk to...we talked about football and other things like being parents of 2 year olds and he's great. I hope he's here a while, and I hope we compensate him appropriately to keep him

Don't take success for granted, once you do failure will follow and hurt that much more

Freakin lucky sob.

True Hokies STICK IT IN!!!

STICK IT IN Army of Virginia Tech

Fosterball