There's something missing from Rutgers football this season. It's not Ray Rice, or a winning record.
A few years ago, Greg unveiled T.B.A. and while most people outside the program thought that meant To Be Announced, it was actually Trust Belief Accountability. It was a private, team thing and no one really bothered to correct assumptions. The next year, the Scarlet Knights had Keep Chopping and the way Greg explained holding off on talking about F.A.M.I.L.Y. was with that.
As most Rutgers fans know, Keep Chopping took on a life of its own. ESPN couldn't stay away from it (who can forget the shadowed promos the network shot in the woods with axes?), the thing became this commercial monster, and, in Greg's mind, it lost some of its internal effectiveness. So he said he wants his players to decide if F.A.M.I.L.Y. can be revealed. Until then, I suppose we can have some fun guessing what the letters stand for.
Of course, "Keep Chopping" was eventually ran into the ground.
Merchandise is supplied by authorized liscensees of Rutgers University. "KEEP CHOPPING" is a trademark of Rutgers University and is used by permission.
It was also used for promo videos at Rutgers Stadium last season. Wait, how did they get the copyright for that? More on this later. The influence of 2006 and the Chop still live on however.
More than anything else, Richt preached the value of persistence. He saw value in a motivational ploy Rutgers coach Greg Schiano used last season, comparing each opponent to a tree that needed to be chopped down.
"I kind of stole it from Rutgers," Richt said. "No matter what happens, you have to keep chopping wood. There's going to be things that don't go your way. When things get rough, you just have to keep chopping and know that something good is going to happen if you don't give in."
I've seen some Rutgers fans actually claim that Rutgers "invented" the Keep Chopping mantra. This is clearly false.
In truth, it was a long-time coaching cliche which originally came to the attention of the media in 2003.
Jacksonville Jaguars punter Chris Hanson was put on the reserve list for nonfootball injuries yesterday and will miss the rest of the season after gashing his leg with an ax while chopping a log in the locker room in what was supposed to be a motivational stunt.
Hanson needed emergency surgery to repair damage to his right, nonkicking leg. He could be ready to kick again before the end of the season. Jacksonville signed Mark Royals, formerly of the Dolphins, to punt and hold for kicks.
The log Hanson was working on was put in the locker room at the behest of Coach Jack Del Rio, who used the mantra ''keep chopping wood'' to inspire his players when they got off to an 0-3 start.
The ax was removed shortly after the injury Thursday, but the log remained.
A 2006 AP article actually got to the bottom of where exactly Greg Schiano found the chop.
Schiano began using the phrase "just keep chopping wood" after Rutgers blew a big lead to Illinois on opening day last season, and the Knights have gone 16-4 since.
He first heard about it from Dr. Kevin Elko while serving as Miami's defensive coordinator. Dr. Elko is a sports psychologist who was working with the Hurricanes and now helps out at Rutgers.
"He said this, and it didn't catch on there but I always remembered it," Schiano said. "When he started working with us here, we were talking after Illinois, it just came to me. It was no great work of thoughtfulness. Right now we're in a bad spot, we're in the middle of the forest, it's all dark, we can't see. Get an ax and just start chopping away.
"You never know what will catch on with young people. That one, for whatever reason, maybe we kept throwing it at them, but it caught on and now it serves as something more than words."
Defensive tackle Ramel Meekins remembers the meeting room after the loss to Illinois.
"He didn't know what to tell us. He was thinking about what he was going to do to get us back on the job and not let that be the end of our season," Meekins said. "And he came up with the chop and it made sense. Every time we win from doing chopping, it reinforces that even more."
Who is this Kevin Elko?
Kevin is called in to motivate athletes and business leaders to compete at their peak performance - nothing less is acceptable. His past and present professional and big-time college football team clients include the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, LSU Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide, Nebraska Cornhuskers and Miami Hurricanes.
Elko has a collection of Super Bowl championship rings and national championship college football rings that attest to how effective his pep talks are. In 2008, he added a Final Four ring to his collection.
The Street also did a profile of him a few years ago. Many other coaches, like Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban, swear by him.
It goes back at least further than Elko (hey, it'd be really interesting to read a feature on Elko). According to a 1994 article in the Denver Post (Lexis-Nexis doesn't go back much further than that):
"I just tell our players to keep chopping wood," DeBerry said. "I don't think there's any pressure on us to go to Notre Dame and play. The pressure is on them because nobody thinks we can win."
Likewise, from a 1995 story in the Washington Times:
"For us to succeed, we have to keep our poise. We can't panic," said Panthers coach Dom Capers. "Everything's not going to go right so you have to just keep chopping wood. If we hang in there, then we'll always have a chance."
So here is my question to the handful of people that read this site - where did the phrase originally come from? I found a copy of Tom Osbourne's biography on Google Books that mentions it, but that book was published in 2006.
I started this piece intending to chase the origin of the chop, and I ended up being sidetracked, partially because the digital record is kind of spotty. I ended up far more interested in Kevin Elko. Is it worthwhile for coaches across the country, on every level (Elko has worked with tons of NFL and college teams, and currently works with the Eagles, Pitt, and UNC) to spend so much money on a motivational speaker? The Google record also indicates that there is a religious overtone to Elko's work, which given Greg Schiano's past actions, is not much of a surprise.