By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
Five years removed from when he once roamed the maroon-colored halls, a bright-eyed 23-year-old Darrell Wyatt returned to his alma mater.
Fresh off his first year as an assistant football coach at Trinity Valley Community College in 1989, the former Killeen receiver was seeking to make a splash in his new job and reel in a couple of potential big-time players.
But once at school, Wyatt learned both former offensive lineman George Wilson and receiver Aaron Swift didn't hang around any more.
So, having lived in Killeen since arriving on a Greyhound bus in 1979, Wyatt decided to make a house call to the lower-income neighborhood of Marlboro Heights.
"I just thought to myself, 'That young man has a lot of talent, and you hate to see that talent go to waste,' because that's one of the things about Killeen, you had to deal with the number of talented athletes who, for whatever reason, never made it out, never gave the world the opportunity to see that great talent," Wyatt said. "So I took it upon myself to go knock on the door and find ol' George and tell him what we're trying to do at Trinity Valley, and convinced him that he still had a chance to get in school, get a degree, and give himself options."
Both Wilson and Swift agreed to follow Wyatt to Trinity Valley, where each spent two years before moving on to bigger and better things - Wilson signing with UNLV, Swift going to Sam Houston State.
That first visit was just the beginning for Wyatt, who saw his 21-year coaching career come full-circle when he was hired as the new receivers coach/co-recruiting
coordinator at the University of Texas last Monday.
With a resume that reads like a road map to various locales all around the Southwest, Wyatt hasn't let anything hold him back from being a success.
"Killeen helped me build a kind of mentality, or level of resolve and confidence, that I can go out there and be able to do what I've been able to do," Wyatt said.
A smaller athlete himself, the 1984 graduate was never a standout player with dreams of being the highly touted prospects he now recruits.
No, Wyatt knew whatever he did, it wouldn't be running routes in the NFL.
"Darrell was a real good young man, not very big - about 5-6, 5-7 and about 140 pounds, if he weighed that much - but he had a great big heart ... he´d give you everything he had," said longtime Killeen athletic trainer Al 'Doc' Wilson.
Wyatt played two years apiece at Trinity Valley (1985-86) and Kansas State (1987-88) before finding his true calling as a coach at Trinity.
From there, it's been a whirlwind ride that's included jobs at 13 colleges - including five Big 12 programs (Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, twice at Kansas and Texas) - and hundreds of in-house visits with recruits.
"He's a success story in Killeen," said former Ellison standout David Winbush, one of those recruits. "... Killeen's been known to have a lot of athletes, but it's grown and he's a reason for that."
Signing what he guesses are at least two dozen Killeen-area prospects to college scholarships along the way, Wyatt has never forgotten where he came from.
"There's no question that having a similar background, understanding the lifestyle, understanding the things a young man goes through in high school in Central Texas and specifically Killeen, certainly helps to build a relationship," Wyatt said. "And recruiting is about relationships and gaining the trust of a young man and his family."
His biggest contribution came during his first stint at Kansas (1997-2000) when he convinced seven Killeen prospects to come and play for the Jayhawks - beginning with Winbush, the one-time city-rushing record-holder.
"Coach Wyatt called me up and told me he was just hired at Kansas, and I had known him previously when he was at Baylor (1996) and he'd been around our school," said Winbush, now a coach himself as the offensive coordinator at San Antonio Reagan. "So it was kind of a deal where we talked and he said he wanted to get me up (to Kansas) and it kind of worked."
Winbush and offensive guard Jason Stevenson, also a 1996 Ellison graduate, began a pipeline from Killeen to Kansas that included fellow Eagle standouts Reggie Duncan and Carl Ivey (both 1999), and Roo products Demond Benford (1997) David McMillan and Johnny McCoy (both 2000). Wyatt's also since recruited a receiver much like himself in Killeen's Juaquin Iglesias to Oklahoma in 2006, two years after reeling in his biggest get to date - current Minnesota Vikings and ex-Sooners running back Adrian Peterson, the nation's No. 1 recruit in 2004.
While carefully considering his words, Wyatt is confident that his connection with his hometown brethren will continue to grow at Texas.
"I'll just say this, that if there's a kid in Killeen who can play at the University of Texas ... I'd like to think that we have a good chance to sign that young man," Wyatt said.
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566.
Wyatt's Hometown Recruits
2011 - Michael Cummings, Killeen QB (Kansas)
2009 - Ryan Balentine, Harker Heights QB/WR (Southern Miss.)
2006 - Juaquin Iglesias, Killeen WR (Oklahoma)
2000 - Johnny McCoy, Killeen DB (Kansas)
2000 - David McMillan, Killeen DE (Kansas)
1999 - Carl Ivey, Ellison DB (Kansas)
1999 - Reggie Duncan, Ellison RB (Kansas)
1997 - Demond Benford, Killeen DE (Kansas)
1996 - David Winbush, Ellison RB (Kansas)
1996 - Jason Stevenson, Ellison OL (Kansas)
1995 - Robbie Duncan, Ellison RB (Wyoming)
1995 - Arlen Smith, Ellison RB (Wyoming)
1990 - Robert Pryor, Killeen OL (Trinity Valley CC/Sam Houston State)
1989 - Aaron Swift, Killeen WR (Trinity Valley CC)
1989 - George Wilson, Killeen OL (Trinity Valley CC)