On Saturday, Zach Venesky became the first offensive lineman to commit to the Scarlet Knights in the 2015 class, and the sixth player to commit this year. On Monday, he spoke with On the Banks to help Rutgers fans get to know more about him as a player and a person.
How did your relationship with Rutgers begin?
Rutgers has been sending me mail since my sophomore season last year, but my recruiting really took off in the last few weeks. I visited campus with my dad on Thursday, and we liked it a lot, so we wanted to come back Saturday so my mom could see everything.
Which coaches do you have the most contact with?
Coach [Norries] Wilson has been my primary recruiter, and it's funny because he coached my high school coach, George Howanitz, at Bucknell. So there is a nice relationship there. I also talked to [Rutgers OL] Coach Browning a lot, and he spent a lot of time talking with my parents too. I also talked to coach Sam Williams a lot, and Coach Flood spent a lot of time with us, and really made us feel at home.
What impressed you about the coaching staff?
I really felt comfortable with the answers we got from the coaches. They took a lot of time to answer our questions, and really made us feel at home. I also think everybody was really honest - they give it to you straight, without any BS.
What else do you like about Rutgers?
It's close to home, only a one hour, forty-five minute drive, so my parents and my two older brothers can come to all the home games, as well as some of the away games, so I like that a lot. I know the football team is going to be great, and I will be able to get a great degree from Rutgers.
Do you know what you want to study?
I am undecided, but I am thinking about political science or communications.
Rutgers fans are proud of our athletes' academic successes. Do you consider yourself a strong student?
I am pretty strong. There is always room for improvement, but I am a pretty good student, especially if I am interested in the topic. Academics is one of the main reasons I am excited about Rutgers.
How long have you been boxing?
I started boxing when I was nine years old, and I really like it. Even when I was a kid, I would train with and fight much bigger older guys. I got involved in Golden Gloves boxing, and I fought as a super-heavyweight. There was really nobody in my weight class near me to fight, so I had to find opponents from Allentown. After a while, they did not want to fight me anymore. I guess the word got out. [laughs]
Are you still boxing, or doing fight training?
Not as much. I stopped when I was fifteen to get more serious about football, and hit the weight room harder. I still do some boxing training, and spar with training partners.
What aspects of your boxing background do you bring to football?
Boxing has been great to develop my footwork, conditioning and toughness.
What else do you do to train and prepare for football in the offseason?
I work out at my school's weight room about five times per week. We have a strength and conditioning coach, and he helps me.
Let's talk about why you chose Rutgers over the other options you have. What other schools have offered you?
I had offers from Temple, Purdue, Monmouth and Colgate, with a bunch of other schools talking to me too. Even since I committed to Rutgers, I have heard from Boston College and Syracuse.
So what stood out about Rutgers out of that group?
I liked Purdue, but it's really far away, like a fifteen hour drive, so my family wouldn't be able to go to many games. The Temple coaches were cool too, but I'm not really a city guy, so that wasn't a high priority for me. The other schools were smaller, and I want to play big-time football. I love that Rutgers is going into the B1G.
What are you going to tell any schools that contact you now?
I am a man of my word. I know what commitment means, and I am going to be loyal to Rutgers. I am happy to be part of this family.
Does that go for that school in Pennsylvania too? [laughs]
Definitely. I am done with Penn State. I am fired up to play those guys. I want to show them they missed out on a really good player from Pennsylvania. I like that Coach Flood told me Rutgers fans don't even refer to them as "Penn State" by name.
What was it like when you committed?
I was talking to the offensive coordinator, Coach Friedgen, and he asked me if I was comfortable with the coaches and with Rutgers. I told him I was very comfortable, so he asked me, "What's stopping you then?" That really got me thinking. I knew this was the place for me, so I trusted my gut feeling and committed.
How has the reaction been?
It's been amazing. As soon as I stepped out of the building after I committed, my phone was blowing up like crazy, and people have been congratulating me and wishing me good luck. I am really feeling the love from Rutgers people.
Have you been in contact with any of the other kids committed to your class?
Yes, through Twitter, a little bit. The QB commit, Mike Dare, reached out to me to welcome me. I saw a kid committed today [Ron'Dell Carter], so I reached out to him on Twitter to congratulate him too. I am really excited about this class. The Class of 2015 is going to do big things, and we have championships as our goal.
Do you have any plans to go back to Rutgers?
I will be back this Saturday for the Spring Game, and I am really excited about that. It's going to be awesome, and I am probably going to spend the night to get to know some of the guys on the team better, especially the offensive linemen. Other than that, I am going to come down as much as I can. I don't have any other specific plans yet though.
Thanks very much to Zach for talking to us. Rutgers got itself a tremendous person as well as a great football player in him. If you are not sufficiently excited about Zach after reading how amped he is to be a Knight, and how much he wants to start chopping our rivals, here are some videos of him blowing up defenses and ruining their days. Enjoy!