Darrin Chiaverini joined the Colorado Buffaloes coaching staff in January as co-offensive coordinator, recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach, and since that time, he’s treated it just like everything else he’s done since originally joining the University of Colorado as a player back in 1995: by going all in.

The inaugural Buffalo Heart Award recipient, Chiaverini still exemplifies the moral character (heart, determination, grit and desire) that earned him the award two decades ago, and he’s now using it to do what few have been able to do in recent years: get top recruits on campus.

“I was blown away by everything that encompasses Boulder,” Chiaverini said of his first experience in Colorado. “I fell in love with Boulder. I fell in love with the University of Colorado. I know when we bring kids up, they feel the same way.”

But it’s taken awhile for Chiaverini to get back to campus himself. Since his time at Colorado as a player to the hiring that brought him back to his alma mater, Chiaverini has been using his experience from the pros to help work his way up through the coaching rankings. Prior to his time at Texas Tech, where he spent the last two seasons, Chiaverini gained national recognition at Riverside City College from 2010-2013 by helping take a program that was 1-9 in 2009 to 40-5 in four seasons.

His title at Riverside (co-offensive coordinator, associate head coach, recruiting coordinator) was very similar to the title he wears today in Boulder, and ultimately, it’s thanks to his time at Riverside that Chiaverini has been able to become such a successful recruiter for the Buffaloes. As recruiting coordinator at Riverside, 42 players transferred to Division I football programs, and his work allowed him to get a gig at Texas Tech before landing back in Boulder.

Nearly a decade removed from his last visit to the campus, Chiaverini was blown away by the work head coach Mike MacIntyre and athletic director Rick George had put into the program.

“[I was] absolutely blown away with the facilities,” Chiaverini said of his first meeting with MacIntyre, George and associate athletic director Lance Carl. “What Rick George and his team have done is put CU in an elite class.”

Chiaverini knew, though, that the only way to sell those facilities was to get kids on campus and show them personally.

And while the new facilities have definitely helped generate interest, Chiaverini understands signing a recruit is about much more than just shiny objects. His recruiting philosophy, which he shares with coach MacIntyre, is that the first thing you have to do is build relationships with both the recruit and his parents. After that, you have to make them believe in what you’re selling.

And for Chiaverini, that starts with an emphasis on re-branding the image of CU football.

“When I got back to Colorado, I wanted to put an emphasis on marketing Colorado to the top talent in the country,” Chiaverini said. “You can build facilities, but if no one knows about them or is coming to see them, we are just in Colorado. What we’ve been able to do in this recruiting class, and finishing the last recruiting class, is being able to get kids on campus. When they see these facilities within Boulder, it just blows them away.”

But getting kids on campus isn’t a new idea. The Buffs have spent plenty of time and money doing so in the past, but something always seemed to be missing. Chiaverini, though, appears to have cracked the code.

By instituting an aggressive and creative social media strategy, Chiaverini has been able to reach recruits like few before him.

“That’s free advertising,” Chiaverini said of social media. “Why wouldn’t you push your image, push your brand and show we have a world class facility?”

Chiaverini also saw a need to focus their recruiting efforts back towards the school’s traditional pipelines for talent: Texas, California and Colorado. He pointed to the need to continually visit those areas and develop relationships with local high school coaches and get their athletes to say, “Colorado football … I need to check that place out.”

He understands that once he establishes a relationship with the athlete, the next step is the parents. While today’s recruits may not know much about CU’s tradition, their parents still remember the names of Deion Figures, Alfred Williams, Kordell Stewart, Eric Bienemy, Michael Westbrook and other Buffs greats from the glory years.

The majority of those legends center around a group that won a national title in 1990, and were part of the 30 for 30 documentary, The Gospel According to Mac. That group was built through the 1987 and 1988 freshman classes, who came together under a similar message to the one that recruits are hearing today: that they can be the ones to put CU back on the map.

This past weekend CU hosted a team barbecue for current players, coaches, families, a dozen or so 2017 class commits and another half-dozen prospects who Chiaverini believes could commit sooner than later.

“For them to pay their own money to come up here shows they want to be part of something special, that they are willing to sacrifice certain things to make CU great again,” Chiaverini said. “That’s the kind of guys you want, because in the fourth quarter, when things are on the line, you want kids like that.”

The current 2017 commitment class ranks in the low 30s across all recruiting sites. In six of the previous seven seasons, though, CU has not had a class ranked better than the 60th range, which has put them near the bottom of all Power 5 schools. Not only was CU not landing the big recruits that they’re seeing this year, but they weren’t even getting those kids on campus, let alone developing a relationship with them and their families.

“I truly believe if you are going to hit home runs, you have to swing for the fences,” Chiaverini said. “It just ain’t gonna happen … I can tell we are making some headway in recruiting because when people start talking bad about you, it shows they are a little threatened.”

The Buffs ultimately are selling a winning culture and are winning on the recruiting trail. In a few months, we’ll see if that leads to a winning football team, but right now, there’s no denying that Darrin Chiaverini is putting the program back on a winning path