The quest began six years ago, when Chad Wilt had visited a dozen or so major league baseball stadiums. It was the farewell tour for Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, so the college football coach wound up hitting six stadiums in six days. He went to Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Then he thought to himself: “What the heck? Let’s go for it.”
So Wilt, a Red Sox and Braves fan who had bounced around to coaching gigs at four schools by that point, planned a West Coast trip, where he did San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, Arizona and Oakland in six days. The tally climbed higher and higher until today, he proudly claims attendance at one game in every major league city, as well as the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby.
“I guess it’s a little unique that I’ve already marked that one off my bucket list,” the Maryland football defensive line coach said last week. “Waiting to get the next one here. I guess I’ve got to figure out what the next one is, whether it’s swimming with sharks or skydiving.”
Perhaps in a few years, but Wilt has plenty on his plate now. He had spent the past three seasons at Ball State, but was keeping his eyes peeled for a move. Two seasons at Virginia as a graduate assistant and later one as an assistant had whetted Wilt’s appetite for a power-conference gig, so when Maryland announced its vacancy, he jumped.
“When I interviewed with Coach [Randy] Edsall, you could tell that the staff and the people here were genuinely good people and genuinely excited to be here,” Wilt said. “That’s one of those important things in any professional organization. You could tell the people here were genuinely excited about what’s going on and were all on the same page. Same belief patters and same mindset about what it takes to be successful. You could sense it form the moment I walked in and you could sense that they liked each other.”
An energetic 35-year-old, Wilt joins a veteran defensive staff entering Year Three under coordinator Brian Stewart’s 3-4 scheme. The Terps return several starters, including Andre Monroe (9.5 sacks in 2013) and nose tackle Darius Kilgo, which has eased Wilt’s transition to College Park.
“We’re not going to change our defense,” he said. “We’ve got three guys sitting in that staff room who have been doing it for years. It’s not on me to come in, this new blitz, this new front, anything like that. it’s how can we take what we have and shape it, mold it and take veteran players and refine some things to help them take some incremental steps forward.”
Given his Midwestern ties – Wilt also served as the recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals –Wilt will have recruiting jurisdiction over Indianapolis and Chicago as Maryland moves into the Big Ten, but his most important area will be in southeastern Virginia, where the Terps have struggled to recruit in recent seasons. This includes the famed 757 – named for the Hampton Roads area code – which is traditionally a hotbed of talent.
And with spring practice around the corner, Wilt has leapt right into the fray. The transition has not been hard. His grandparents live two hours away in Cumberland, an aunt lives in Gaithersburg, several cousins live in Olney and another cousin is a senior at Maryland.
“Professionally it was a great opportunity, and personally it was a pretty neat experience to have dinner with my cousin one night at Ledo’s Pizza,” Wilt said. “Went up to Olney and had lunch with my cousins on a Sunday. Best of both words for me. It’s pretty heavily rooted here.”