On a brisk winter day in January of 2016, in an athletic office in Kansas, a potential junior college recruit, Juwann Winfree, sat waiting to meet the Buffaloes’ newly hired offensive coordinator, Darrin Chiaverini.
Not knowing what to expect, Winfree thought about his future in Colorado. After removing his name from Pittsburgh’s list of recruits, and a brief stop at Coffeeville C.C. by way of a dismissal from Maryland, the interest for CU was high.
And the new beginning couldn’t come soon enough for Winfree.
He never met any of the coaches prior, let alone his new home for the next couple seasons. Winfree’s first real impression of Colorado was channeled through Chiaverini, who was on the job less than three months.
“As he walked into the room wearing a regular hat with a CU sweater, he looked comfortable. My first thoughts were that he was a cool guy,” Winfree remembered about his soon-to-be coach.
A brief conversation and Winfree quickly realized Chiaverini’s uncanny ability as a solid recruiter, scouring the country selling the idea of ‘The Rise.’ Not to take away from coach relating to him on a personal level, says Winfree.
“He wasn’t a guy that would say anything to make you commit or a huge talker. He let me talk a lot and told me where I stood. He was very open and truthful. And that’s what I liked about him.” Chiaverini’s relentlessness brought Winfree to Boulder-- his first of several recruits in the past year with Colorado.
This, a “homecoming”, as the sixth stop for Chiaverini, in a career dating back to 2007 as the wide receivers coach for Mt. San Antonio College. He moved on to UCLA, the first Pac-12 stint under his college coach, Rick Neuheisel, as UCLA’s special teams coordinator in 2009.
Chiaverini has learned better recruiting tactics during his time, most notably being a better judge of character. His contributions to 2017’s signees was regarded in the top 20 nationally, by consensus, Colorado’s best class in over a decade.
Chiaverini’s extensive recruiting the south, opens a gateway for the Buffaloes to reach recruits often retained by teams in the ACC and SEC. Out of the twenty-eight total commits from last year, thirteen of them resided in southern states, with the exception of two receiving offers from SEC schools.
‘Chiv’ shines the brightest in the ‘Friday Night Lights’ district of Texas, a hotbed of NFL feeder talent for the past several decades. His persuasion brought together K.D. Nixon, Laviska Shenault, and Jaylon Jackson, assembling a solid group of receivers out of the 2017 class.
“I feel the class that we just brought in, not only are they good football players, but good kids,” Chiaverini said. “They work hard, are respectful, and are doing the right things. And that’s how you build a program to be successful for the long haul.”
The key to Chiaverini’s recruiting success relies on not selling the program first, but rather, understanding the background of the person in front of him. A common misconception among coaches, hammering away at athletics before developing a trustworthy relationship.
“It’s hard to sell a kid on your football program, if they don’t know who you are, Chiaverini added.
“The first thing I try to do is get to know the recruit, try to know his background, try to know his family situation. Talk to him as a person; not as a prospective student-athlete. That’s important once you break down that barrier, then they begin to trust you a little bit. Then you can move to your football program and what you’re about. Where you’re headed as a program, where you’ve been as a program and what you’re trying to accomplish as a team.”
Chiaverini sees beyond the field— last month, he unfollowed a targeted recruit on Twitter for retweeting inappropriate conduct.
“Social media is a reflection of who you are as a person,” said Chiaverini. “If you’re being negative on social media, or if you’re retweeting stuff that’s inappropriate, It’s telling me as a prospective coach that’s trying to recruit you that, He might have some red flags in his background.”
Learning players’ tendencies is a coach’s priority. For some like Chiaverini, it’s about life development taught through football. An Intertwined notion with the four ‘F’ philosophy (family, foundation, football, future), instilled five years ago after coach Mike MacIntyre’s arrival on campus.
“If I don’t feel that he’s a good fit for what we’re doing, for what Coach Mac’s vision is for our program, then I’m going to unfollow him and we’re not going to recruit him,” Chiaverini added. “There’s a lot of good football players all over the country and we need to find the right ones.“
It’s not difficult to see how CU is stepping in the right direction. The actions speak for themselves.
And of course it’s starts and ends with leadership, a role destined for Steven Montez, the most underrated player on offense heading into this season. Last year’s backup quarterback turned starting redshirt sophomore, played a pivotal role in relief of the injured Sefo Liufau, lifting the Buffs to big wins early in the season. Montez, given a full season, looks to make a name for himself.
“No question, Steven’s been more vocal in the offseason workouts,” Chiaverini noted. “The players respect him because they see what he does when he gets an opportunity to play. I’ve seen him grow as leader and a player.”
Chiaverini, with co-coordinator Brian Lindgren, envisions Colorado’s offense to be a faster unit compared to last year’s. One, that remains a balanced attack, out of the backfield with Phillip Lindsay, and down the field with Shay Fields, Devin Ross, Kabion Ento and Bryce Bobo.
“At times we played fast and we were dynamic at times, but I thought we were a little stagnant toward the end of the year, Chiaverini said. “We got to do a better job as coaches by putting our kids in a better situation to be successful. And that’s on us as coaches.”
Chiaverini, who entered his second year, adds character to the Buffs coaching staff, and yet, is one of the most dynamic up-and-coming recruiters in the nation. Always staying true to himself, as best he can. After losing the Alamo Bowl, Chiaverini hit the recruiting trail with a more aggressive approach, helping to seal the incoming class before signing day. Like Montez, it can be said that Chiaverini’s best days coaching football are ahead of him.