As he woke up the morning of national signing day on Feb. 1, Chris Miller found himself conflicted.
A talented defensive back from Denton, Texas, Miller had been verbally committed to Colorado since June, but had Baylor, Ole Miss and others trying to pry him away from the Buffaloes.
Ultimately, Miller elected to sign with the Buffs because, “I just really feel home,” he said.
Miller kept going back to the tight-knit, family feel he got out of the Buffs, even after their disappointing 4-9 season in 2015.
“The way the players were talking about (being at CU), after a losing season, it made me want to be a part of it,” he said.
Miller isn’t alone. Several players in CU’s recent recruiting class mentioned the words “family” and “home,” when talking about what they liked about the Buffs.
Creating that feeling has been part of CU’s formula in not only improving the culture on campus, but in recruiting others to join the ranks.
“We want them to feel like it’s home,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We want them to bond together. You get close friendships, which makes you feel like at home.”
This past year, when the Buffs finished 10-4 and won the Pac-12 South, they did it with a group of players that, for the most part, got along with each other off the field. Many of them talked highly of each other and spoke of life-long friendships they’ve made in Boulder.
In their four-plus years at CU, MacIntyre and his staff have created an environment where players can develop as friends.
“The way we do our program, with morning practice, classes in the afternoon and evenings free, it allows them to have some down time,” MacIntyre said. “That allows them to get friendships and get away from (the coaches), in a way.”
Recruits visiting the campus, such as Miller, have taken notice.
Terrance Lang, a 6-foot-7, 265-pound defensive end from Pomona, Calif., signed with the Buffs last weekend after previously being committed to Southern California.
“It was like a family environment (at CU) and I felt very welcomed,” he said. “Everybody there seems like they had my best interests (in mind).”
That family feel extends beyond the campus, and proved to be a big factor in CU pulling together a recruiting class that ranked among the top 30 in national rankings.
Quarterback Tyler Lytle was an early commit to the Buffs’ 2017 class, pledging to CU on June 21. By then, CU already had a handful of commitments that had started a group text.
“They added me to their group texts when it was only five or six people,” Lytle said. “I started talking to them and building a great relationship with them.”
Lytle quickly became one of the leaders in that group chat and played a pivotal role in adding others to the class.
“The guys that were a high priority for us we added to that group text so they could start getting to know us and feel comfortable with us,” Lytle said, “just to make that decision easier and make them feel like they have friends at Colorado, which I thought really helped me.”
While many of the new players aren’t on campus yet, they have already developed friendships. Offensive tackle Jake Moretti, from Pomona High School, said that aspect of the recruiting process was unique to CU.
“Through social media, we’ve really kind of been able to get to know each other and I’m really excited about this group,” said Moretti, a four-star recruit who was originally committed to Ohio State.
One of five early enrollees who arrived in mid-January, Lytle has been pleased to find himself even more at home now that he’s in Boulder.
“The way the team has embraced me, I think that really comes down to coach Mac and the culture that he’s built here,” Lytle said. “It’s just a really big, high-character family with a locker room full of like-minded kids.”