Johnathan Aiken, the former defensive back who played in 34 games between the 2011 and 2014 seasons at Rutgers, died in a single car crash in Florida on Friday morning. Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media first reported the sad news on Friday afternoon.
Aiken was a key contributor for the Rutgers defense during his career and played in three bowl games. He started eight games at free safety during the 2014 season and registered a career high 51 tackles, 47 of which were solo. Aiken became the first Rutgers football player to earn Big Ten Honors for his effort in the season opening win at Washington State, when he produced 7 tackles, a forced fumble, and a pass deflection on fourth down to clinch the victory. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for that performance. In his last game at Rutgers, Aiken registered a career high 11 tackles in the Quick Lane Bowl win over North Carolina.
There was plenty that Aiken overcame in his life before ever arriving at Rutgers as a 3-star recruit from Florida. This 2013 profile by Steve Politi details the difficult childhood he overcame, as he found his mother murdered at the age of 3 and lived in foster care for years. The character and perseverance of Aiken was evident during his time at Rutgers and he was well liked by his teammates.
While the cause of the accident remains under investigation, the original report by an ABC affiliate in Florida is here.
Rest in peace, Johnathan Aiken, a loyal son gone far too soon.
Here are social media messages from former teammates and others associated with the program that knew Aiken:
I’m deeply saddened to hear this news, #RIP Jonathan Aiken! You was a teammate I considered a little brother, you showed crazy love and energy to my game before you started balling on the field with your big bros and you was a loyal supporter of my haircuts when we were in school together. I shared so much quality one on one time being a big bro and mentor to him; just from a haircut, that’s why this one hurts so much. He used to get a haircut twice a week because he wanted to stay fresh and he knew I was a ear and heart that would listen to him and give him the advice he could count on. That’s the impact barbers & stylist have on people’s lives. The relationships that are created from having 30 minutes of undivided attention while you cut someone’s hair is why I love doing what I do. Aik was one of the people when I graduated that said “damn Dub, what we gone do, it’s nobody else around that can cut us like you and be the big bro like you are to us, you gotta bring it back one day” I remember telling him like it was yesterday, “don’t worry bro I’ll be back”! Sure enough @twcbs is back and I’ll never forget what impact you had on this bro. Rest In Peace Lil Bro! #JonathanAiken #BrotherForever
R.I.P bro thank you for your great wisdom in my young days at Rutgers . May god bless you. So young and they took you away. Love you bro pic.twitter.com/Nd1BpLPzJx— Kemoko Turay (@Kturay_58) June 22, 2018
RIP Aik! You were understood and loved by all of your teammates. The odds were always stacked against you. You beat them everyday you showed up to practice and when you finished at Rutgers with that degree! I love you big bro!— Myles Nash (@mylesOneTwo) June 22, 2018
One of the most amazing days as a parent was getting to stand in for this young mans family during his senior day at Rutgers. Johnathan Aiken was an amazing young man with a very sad story to tell. RIP J.A.!!! We will always love you!!! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/QUbvkoWyKD— B (@ctsmom3) June 22, 2018
Sickened to hear about the passing of Johnathan Aiken. The things he overcame in life just to have a chance to play college football were remarkable. More than anything, JA always was a joy to be around. Gone far too soon— Sopan Shah (@SopanShah) June 22, 2018
So sad to hear about Johnathan Aiken. I remember covering him at the Targum like it was yesterday. Always a ray of sunshine. RIP.— Anthony Hernandez (@anthimnandez) June 22, 2018
I’ll never forget the night at Olde Queen’s when he called me over to the bar as I walked past, recognizing me as “the guy from all the football games”, bought me a drink, and talked with me for a while. So many laughs and good times that night.— Jim Brockmire (@IAmScottLogan) June 22, 2018
Gone far, far too soon.