Dear Talented Ballers of New Jersey (and PA, NY, the DMV, Florida, and everywhere else):
This is the moment just before the roller coaster gets to the top of the first hill - the moment just before everything changes. Because as soon as the train goes just a few. more. feet. - it will crest the hill, and then the rush happens. Then you are moving forward faster than you thought possible, and having the time of your life. Then, exciting moments and exhilarating turns are coming at you at break-neck speed. Then, you are FLYING. But none of this happens - and you don't get those thrills and chills - if you aren't on the ride.
So what exactly are you waiting for? What else do you need to see from the Scarlet Knights before you pull the trigger for Rutgers? Haven't the Scarlet Knights answered every single question you might have had this year?
We R B1G, now and forever.
Think about it - when Greg Schiano was recruiting your big brothers, cousins or teammates about four years ago, they asked him (rightfully so) whether the conference would even be around in a few years - whether the next round of expansions would pick off the last few teams keeping the Big East afloat. They worried whether Rutgers would be left out in the cold, playing conference games against teams like Tulane and UConn for eternity. Because they worried, maybe they went somewhere else.
Those anxieties and questions no longer exist - we went from a dying, relatively impoverished basketball-dominated conference to the richest (both in cash and tradition) football conference in the land. We went from begging for a life boat to landing on a cruise ship. Conference security? Yeah, we got that. Check.
"Ok but isn't Rutgers going to get stomped by its new playmates? I mean, they'll be lucky to win three games against that schedule, right?" Wrong. Rutgers went 7-5 this year, and can make it 8 wins on Friday against North Carolina. Against one of the toughest schedules in the country. Against marquee teams like Ohio State and Michigan State. And we're going to be playing those teams every year from now until forever - no more South Florida or Houston.
The Grass is NOT Greener Somewhere Else
Perhaps it was understandable for the class of 2014 to ask questions about whether Rutgers was destined to be a perpetual doormat in the B1G, and maybe even the early wave of the Class of 2015 (it's not too late for you guys to get on board). Rutgers football went through a lot of turmoil and on-field futility last year, seemingly all at the same time. Some guys got scared, and decommitted, or never committed in the first place. They went places they thought were more stable. They went to boring, old, traditional powers who point at their national championship banners from twenty or thirty years ago but haven't done anything since. Miami. Penn State. Michigan. Notre Dame. YAWWNNNNNNN.
Are those places really better than building something new in your own backyard, in front of your families, coaches and friends? I think not. Did you watch the ESPN 30/30 films on Miami's glory days? Especially the first one? All the prime talent in Miami decided to stay home. They walled off South Florida, and built a JUGGERNAUT in their backyards. That was a long time ago, and the U is not THE U anymore. It hasn't lived up to that legacy in a long time. But do you know what could be the next home-grown success story? RUTGERS. The talent-base is here. The facilities are here. The coaches are here. The only thing missing is YOU here.
On the other hand, consider the competition. The Nitty Kitties went 6-6 and Christian Hackenberg went from one of the most promising young QBs in the land to throwing 15 INTs (and only 8 TDs) after just one year playing for James Franklin. The honeymoon is over for Coach Hype. Michigan is not bowling, fired its coach, and despite allegedly offering $48 MILLION to Jim Harbaugh, they are getting increasingly desperate to find a replacement, before they can start rebuilding (again). Miami also went 6-6, and if they weren't on the hook for eleventy-billion dollars in buyouts to Al Golden, he would probably be gone too. Notre Dame? I guess it's ok if you like losing games in the cold in the middle of Indiana, without a lot of pretty girls around to cheer for you. And Syracuse? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (deep breath) AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
The grass is NOT greener somewhere else. Don't take my word for it - ask Kiy Hester. He came back home as soon as he figured out Miami wasn't all it's hyped to be, and will now spend the next four years blowing up receivers over the middle in front of his entire family, all of his friends, and 53,000 screaming Scarlet Knights faithful on the Big Ten Network before eating a home-cooked meal after the game. It does not get better than that. You can also ask some of the Jersey guys who went for the "name" school over Rutgers. Some of them might be your big brothers: Ask Devin Fuller and Damon Mitchell whether they would have made the same choices to go to UCLA and Arkansas, respectively, over RU. Or ask RJ Dill and Andrew Turzilli - they both came to RU as fifth year transfers, after spending four years somewhere else. They have seen how other programs operate, and I bet they will tell you they should have come to Rutgers in the first place.
We Have What You Need, Here at Home.
We have facilities that can compete with just about anybody. I mean, we don't have a waterfall pumping molten gold like Alabama probably has in its locker room, but outside of that, the Hale Center is spectacular. And it's not in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In fact, it's probably less than an hour from where you live (if you are in NJ or NYC or Eastern PA). We don't have a 100k seat stadium. But against ttfp and Michigan this year, you saw that what we do have is a loud, hostile, raucous rattlesnake's nest of a stadium, in which nobody is going to want to face the Scarlet Knights in a big game under the lights.
Our coaching staff is not going anywhere. Kyle Flood got an extension this year, and earned it by going 7-5 in our first season in the B1G. For the first time in too many years, our coaching staff looks like it will come back entirely, or mostly. We might even have a coordinator or two stick around for a second consecutive year (hallelujah!).
One more thing. Rutgers is where you go if you want a degree you can use and enjoy the rest of your life. It's where you go to become a man (it's right in the alma mater, before the school tried to political-correctify the lyrics). We are consistently one of the top academic football programs in the nation. If our guys don't go to the NFL, they graduate and get great jobs. Even the ones who do go to the NFL (and there are a lot of them that go, and stay, in the League), frequently end up graduating and finishing their degrees later. Coach Flood used to be a teacher, and that is still who he is as a coach - he is not a salesman or a money-grabber. He likes molding young men, and his guys will run through walls for him, because he would do the same for them.
So what else do you need to see? What else does Rutgers need to prove? Do it now, do it at home, and do it together. #RUDreamTeam16 is right. And for you 2015 guys - it's not February 4, 2015 yet, and you can still make the right call.
Get on the train - the ride is about to start, and you don't want to miss it.
Patiently Waiting for YOU,