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Ode to the Rutgers Football 2018 Seniors

5th year players had a wild ride, joined along the way by so many others.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Rutgers
Gio has been as loyal as you can be.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On Senior Day last week against Penn State in Piscataway, Rutgers honored its seniors in a ceremony celebrating their contributions to the program. Rather than re-invent the wheel and write my own ode, I found the alma mater, On The Banks of the old Ratitan, had appropriate and sometimes ironic lyrics for those participating in their final collegiate football game representing the State University of New Jersey.

5 year players ...

From far and near we came to Rutgers,

And resolved to learn all that we can;

And so we settled down,

In that noisy college town,

On the banks of the old Raritan.

The recruiting class during the fall of 2013 mostly fell apart as Rutgers limped to a 6-7 finish in the AAC with no defense to speak of, but these young men elected to join the party anyway. They were rewarded with a Bowl trip during their and the program’s first year in the Big Ten, but it has been very bumpy since.

Giovanni Rescigno (Michigan) and Isaiah Wharton (Florida) came from far to join more players from near. Gio and Isaiah were a big part of the team dating back to early in their careers and provided veteran leadership this season on and off the field. Kiy Hester* gets an asterisk as he is said to be the only player to have committed to Rutgers three times, initially from very near (Plainfield), then far as a transfer from Miami (FL), and then as near as you can get while finishing up coursework at RU over the summer.

Zack Heeman surely learned all that he could, graduating last spring but continuing his enrollment as a graduate student in counseling psychology. Zach is known more for his community service in suicide prevention as he works to ensure many others are also able to get the most out of life.

Kevin Wilkins was happy to settle down at RU over the last five years probably more than any other player. Kevin lived in 14 foster homes then saw his adoptive parents get divorced, switched high schools, and despite all the adversity has morphed into a bonafide NFL prospect.

Saquan Hampton from Hamilton dealt with as much noise as any member of the current squad as every coach he had at RU spoke volumes about his potential. Saquan battled a lot of injuries in his career, but finally as a 5th year senior has turned it on during the second half of the season as the team’s best player of late.

Tariq Cole battled injuries, but he gave his all as a Captain in 2018, usually blocking the opponent’s best pass rusher with no tight end, guard, or back to help him out. The three-year starter and rock on the banks still has a chance of continuing his football career.

4 year players ...

On the banks of the old Raritan (my friends)

Where old Rutgers evermore shall stand,

For has she not stood Since the time of the flood,

On the banks of the old Raritan.

This group also entered “the Banks of the old Raritan” literally in the “time of the (Kyle) Flood”. Four of these true seniors were pressed into duty as true freshmen in Flood’s final year, just one season removed from a successful Big Ten opening act.

Trevor Morris (Delaware River) and Deonte Roberts (East River, Atlantic Ocean) hail from the banks of other bodies of water just outside the New Jersey borders. As three-year starters alongside one another at linebacker they have to be some level of friends at this point.

Jon Bateky will be missed, standing tall in the middle of the defensive line since he arrived as a freshman. Bateky hails from Boyds, MD only about 20 miles north of Washington, DC a place that may also remain evermore.

Blessuan Austin was a starter from Day One at cornerback as a true freshman after Kyle Flood’s defensive backfield was ravaged just before the season began. Austin stood up strong after a torn ACL in 2017 though he was injured in the first game this year, but hopes to represent RU on Sundays next fall at the next level.

Backup punter, walk-on Nick Johnston hasn’t even sniffed an opportunity this season as starter Adam Korsak has set the world (well from Australia to New Jersey) on fire. The quantitative finance major Johnston will more likely end up at the confluence of two other rivers, the East and the Hudson, once he graduates in spring.

Football journeys that went elsewhere before the banks ...

Then sing aloud to Alma Mater,

And keep the scarlet in the van;

For with her motto high,

Rutgers’ name shall never die,

On the banks of the old Raritan.

Jerome Washington (3 years) will have only one alma mater even though the Tight End made stops at prep school, Mercer Community College, and Miami (FL) before transferring to Rutgers. After impressing on the scout team while sitting out due to transfer rules, Jerome was the team’s best receiver the past two seasons.

Rob Nittolo (2 years) arrived at the end of spring 2017 with two years of eligibility left after keeping the Scarlet in his heart and perhaps a travel van as well. Nittolo played his senior year of high school ball at Hillsborough, began college at James Madison then graduated from Southern Connecticut State before enrolling at RU as a grad student.

Jonathan Hilliman (1 year) graduated from former Big East rival Boston College, whose motto is “ever to excel”. Hilliman may have decommitted from Rutgers in fall 2013, but excelled at BC with 26 career touchdowns and then returned to NJ for his final year where he has six more for RU.

Muhammad Wainwright (1 year) never had Rutgers’s name die despite graduating from another one of the nation’s finest institutions, Georgetown. The New Brunswick native returned home for one more year of football, on the banks of the old Raritan.

Of course this post would not be complete without mentioning the participation of band members, cheerleaders, student trainers, support staff, media staff, and many other students who go above and beyond their academic responsibilities to contribute to the Football program at Rutgers. We wish them all well. As one beat writer mentioned in a podcast this week regarding a possible graduate transfer quarterback, a degree from Notre Dame goes a long way. Of course, so does one from Rutgers. Let’s hope the 2018 finale turns out to be a memorable one for all involved, and the end of just one chapter in the middle of their lives.

One last time:

On the banks of the old Raritan (my friends)

Where old Rutgers evermore shall stand,

For has she not stood Since the time of the flood,

On the banks of the old Raritan.

NOTE: The current information about the alma mater can be found on the Rutgers University official “Traditional Songs” page.