Hawkeyes Among Several Suitors for Top NJ OL

With Robert Gallery being as near a lock to go in the 2004 NFL draft Top 5, the Iowa Hawkeyes will have sent four offensive lineman to the NFL over the past two years. There are at least three if not four potential NFL prospects at Iowa right now, so to say that the Hawkeyes are always on the look out for the nation's best high school linemen would be accurate. One of those players is Eugene Monroe, considered by some as New Jersey's top high school prospect. Here is the latest on Monroe...

NOTE: This story first appeared on The Bootleg, The Insider's Stanford website

Five years ago in the 2000 recruiting class, Stanford signed the consensus #1 offensive lineman in the nation in Kwame Harris from Newark, DE. The Card went across the country again this past year for the #2 OL in the country when they signed Alex Fletcher from Old Brookville, NY. Bringing an uber-elite talent on the offensive line of the Harris/Fletcher caliber, especially from so far away, would appear to be at best a prize attainable once every five years for Stanford. But last Wednesday, the Cardinal launched themselves into the sweepstakes for big Eugene Monroe, the 6'6" 330-pound offensive tackle from Plainfield, NJ who might be the #1 OL in the nation in this 2005 class.

Monroe tells The Bootleg that he spoke with offensive coordinator Bill Cubit Wednesdsay and received some news.

"Stanford offered me," the talented tackle reports. "They had already been talking with my coach, but this was basically an introduction between them and me. They told me how it is at Stanford because athletes have to get admitted to the shcool. Stanford has better academic standards, which is a big deal."

The Cardinal, however, are not the first to offer Monroe. This scholarship is not even one of the first five or six to make an early impression on the New Jersey junior. Monroe already had 18 rides in his back pocket before this Stanford offer. So far away and with no first-mover advantage, are the Card spinning their wheels in this pursuit?

"Stanford is up there definitely," Monroe maintains. "Academics will probably be the final factor for me, and location so far isn't that much of a factor. There are just so many schools. Right now, I don't know what I'll do. I just think of this as a big opportunity for me to find a great college for my future."

The Plainfield High School star tripped unofficially to Virginia in the fall and Rutgers just a few weeks ago for their Junior Day. Countless schools are pitching him to visit their campus this spring, and it was nearby Maryland who was fortunate enough to have the honor of hosting him this past Saturday for their own Junior Day.

Monroe had an activity-filled day on the College Park campus: a meeting with Terp head coach Ralph Friedgen, followed by other coaches, then some conversations with Maryland seniors head for the NFL draft, finally concluding with tours of the campus and facilities. The last time Monroe had seen Maryland's football facilities, they were using a temporary weight room. Today they boast a brand new facility, which is just one part of the physical plant that impacted the highly rated junior.

"It was a good impression," Monroe says of the Junior Day visit. "I really liked how the whole football scene is situated. Everything is right in one spot, and some of the schools are really close, too. It's not all spread out. They also have new practice fields. It was really nice."

Previous to this weekend visit, the New Jersey junior told The Bootleg that he was struggling to narrow down his list to any tight leadership list.

"A couple days ago, I would have said I had a top five of Michigan State, Florida State, Iowa and USC. But I just can't say that anymore," he said on Friday. "I'm just kind of lost right now with so many schools. But it's not a bad kind of lost. I know I'll end up somewhere."

He went on to name his top 11 schools, including those five plus Penn State, Virginia, Syracuse, Rutgers, Maryland and Stanford. Now fresh off his latest unofficial visit, Monroe sings a slightly different tune. He excitedly proclaims that he has a leader, and it is Maryland.

"Well, it's just a beautiful place that I can see myself at for my college years," the jumbo tackle explains. "It's not too far away, but it really is far enough for me to be away from home. It's a good academic school, and the opportunities in the area after graduating - if no NFL - are awesome."

To those who have watched bits and pieces of this nascent recruiting story from afar, the Terps might seem like a surprising and fleeting number one for the elite student-athlete. They were not in his reported top five earlier in February, but he says they were already high on his mind.

"I was always strong on Maryland," Monroe proclaims. "I really do like the school."

If that gives Cardinalmaniacs™ a quick case of heartburn, then fear not. As we nudge our way into the early days of March, there is miles still left in this marathon recruitment.

"It looks like it's going to take a while," the 330-pound recruit reveals. "My coach will want me to have a decision before my senior season, but I'm not going to rush into this. I think this could go past my senior season. It'll probably go all the way."

In the meantime, Monroe will be looking to post a big enough SAT score to keep Stanford on board academically in their recruitment. He currently boasts a 4.0 GPA at Plainfield High School, with several honors courses and a class ranking of 15 out of 409.

"There is one guy on the team with a 1200," the cerebral superstar shares. "If I don't get a 1200 in March, then we're going to have a little competition going on. I'd like to get something in the 1200 to 1300 range."

Monroe is always a busy man, even in the so-called "off-season" away from football. He lifts four days a week, with speed and agility drills on Mondays and Thursdays, in addition to plyometrics on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He does plenty of flexibility work and stretching as well, and his 6'6" 330-pound frame can is just about three inches off the ground from being able to do a full split. As soon as the weather warms enough there in Plainfield, he will start running hills nearby with his teammates. When I spoke with Monroe yesterday evening, he was in the middle of working out his abdominals.

"I think I'm going to get a six-pack if I keep doing this," he mammoth tackle half-jokes. "My ab's feel like like I got hit with a hammer. This strength and conditioning I do mostly on my own because I want to be great. I realize that doesn't happen by sitting around."

Track season is about to get rolling in Plainfield, and that will return Monroe to the shotput and discus for that season. Right now, though, he is playing team handball. If you are not familiar with the sport, it is a cross between soccer and basketball, with a little touch of rugby.

"My trainer just introduced it to me about a month ago," the multi-talented recruit explains. "I think I'm getting good at it. I'm going to try out for the National Team."

To do all these various workouts and still maintain a 330-pound body is surprising, but not when you take a look at his frame. He carries the weight well, and he in fact feels leaner at his current size than the 315 pounds he played with this past fall.

"I'm not fat at all," Monroe maintains. "When I was 315, I felt a lot fatter. I am lifting every day and see big changes in my body; it gets my really excited. I can't go to bed at night without doing something for my body - it doesn't feel right."

College football coaches are equally excited, as seen through the 19 scholarship offers on the table through February of Monroe's junior year. They see much more than just a jumbo body who can physically dominate smaller high school competition. Scouts and coaches see an athlete who moves well, employing his agility and technique in deliberate and smooth movements on the field. Monroe is also a great knee bender who can play at a low pad level and explode into defenders.  For evidence, just take a look at this game photo taken during his junior of his stance (see left).

"Sometimes it's hard to tell against some of the inferior competition you face," Monroe adds. "I can dominate with my strength, but I feel like I'm a technician out there."

The Plainfield product recorded 57 pancakes in nine games played in 2003, and he says he has plenty more work to do.

"I definitely want to work on my quickness - that's the hardest thing to improve," he opines. "It's easy to get stronger. I last maxed out a month ago with 345 on the bench, which is horrible. I squat 560, too."

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