Hampton’s Benny Haselrig fulfills Division I dream with decision to walk on at Pitt

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Sunday, March 5, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Hampton senior Benny Haselrig agonized a bit during the recruiting process.

Should he walk on at a big-time Division I football program or take a full ride to a smaller Division II school?

In the end, Benny bet on himself.

The three-time all-Greater Allegheny Conference first-team wide receiver committed to Pitt on Feb. 17 and will join the Panthers as a preferred walk-on.

“Obviously, the goal was to go (to school) for free,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s such a dramatic difference between Division I and Division II. In my mind, Division II wasn’t what I worked for. That never was my goal.”

Haselrig turned down preferred walk-on offers to Penn State, West Virginia and Marshall and full scholarship offers to a host of Division II schools, including IUP, Slippery Rock, Clarion and Edinboro.

“I have to pay for school to start out,” he said, “but hopefully if I do well, eventually they will give me a scholarship.”

Pitt offered in November to make Haselrig a preferred walk-on — the top level a recruit can receive short of an athletic scholarship — and after giving the deal some thought, he committed.

“Pitt has been one of my top choices for a long time now,” he said. “Honestly, to myself, I’ve known for a while I was going to go there. I just didn’t want to rush into things, because it’s a big decision. … Once those D-I (preferred walk-on) offers started coming in, I knew then that it was going to be almost impossible for me to turn one of these down.”

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Haselrig isn’t the only Talbot headed to play football in college.

Senior Joey Mayer, a two-time first-team all-conference defensive back, also committed in February, signing with Slippery Rock. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Mayer picked the Rock over Gannon, IUP, Cal (Pa.) and Findlay, and a preferred walk-on offer from Division I Bowling Green.

“They like to win. They have a great weight training program,” Mayer said of the PSAC school. “Overall, I’m pretty excited for Slippery Rock.”

Mayer also started at quarterback and his favorite target, Haselrig, is coming off one of the most productive seasons by a Hampton wide receiver in the past two decades. He finished with 58 receptions for 937 yards and 14 TDs, highlighted by three-TD games against Kiski Area, Mars and Montour, as the Talbots (5-6) reached the WPIAL playoffs for the third consecutive year. It was the most TD catches by a Talbot since current Hampton assistant coach Joe Cangilla had 15 in ‘06.

A big-play threat, Haselrig’s TDs included scores from 35, 36, 36, 38, 52, 61, 70 and 73 yards.

Haselrig, however, may need surgery for a sports hernia. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI in early March and any procedure would force a three-month recovery time. Regardless of what the MRI shows, it will likely prevent Haselrig from playing in the PSFCA Big School East-West all-star game May 21 in Harrisburg.

Mayer, who last season threw for 967 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 356 yards and five TDs, said he expects to redshirt as a freshman at SRU.

He first heard from the four-time defending PSAC West champion in December. He took a visit in early January, where coach Shawn Lutz offered a scholarship. Mayer talked it over with his parents and “about 10 minutes” later, he committed on the spot.

“It went very well,” Mayer said. “I liked everything about it. The coaches were super-nice and friendly. It just felt like I was welcome there.”

Haselrig isn’t sure what his role will be as a freshman at Pitt.

“I’m cool with just putting my head down and working for a little while,” he said. “I’m not going in there expecting to be the top guy right away. … But that’s OK because I’m willing to sacrifice that time to get better and develop and see where that takes me.”

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