Huggins to Recruits: "Go Where Your Heart Is"

Five-star running back Savon Huggins, who signed with Rutgers in February, was at spring practice Thursday, as were a few handfuls of recruits. Huggins spent time talking to many of them, and he had a message in hopes of aiding them in the recruiting process. After the visit, Huggins spoke to about his message to the recruits.

Savon Huggins followed his heart to Rutgers, and the five-star running back turned down offers from virtually every school in the nation to stay home.

That was his message the late Friday in January when he committed, and the message the 6-foot, 200-pound Huggins delivered a handful of New Jersey's top players from the 2012 class when he spoke to them Thursday during an unofficial visit to Rutgers.

Among the recruits at practice were a quartet of highly-coveted players from Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) – five-star defensive tackle Darius Hamilton, four-star safety Elijah Shumate, four-star receiver Leonte Carroo and three-star linebacker Mike Strizak – as well as St Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.Y.) tight end Michael Giacone, Archbishop Wood High (Warminster, Pa.) running back Desmon Peoples and Franklin High (Somerset, N.J.) receiver Carlton Agudosi.

"It kind of pushes a recruit away when you pressure them and tell them to come here," Huggins said. "I told them, ‘Go where your heart is. If you're heart is here, I'm with you 100 percent. Come. If your heart is not here, I'm still supporting you.'

"I said, ‘If we play each other, then you're the enemy. But off the field, we're cool.' I want to be friendly with them, cool with them, and even people I play against, I'm still cool with them. That's how it has to be. You build relationships that way, and relationships go a lot farther than just playing together.

"That's what I'm building with these players, and that's why when we hang out, we don't just talk about football."

Huggins spent much of practice watching the running backs and speaking with Peoples, who is a Rutgers lean and will be returning to campus for Saturday's scrimmage inside Rutgers Stadium.

He is also coach Greg Schiano's most visible signee in 10 years, and his five-star rating and upwards of 70 offers made him one of the most sought after recruits in the 2011 class. And his decision to stay home could impact Rutgers' next few classes, especially for New Jersey-based talent.

"You have a five-star recruit going to (Rutgers), and it maybe it gives the initiative that we all can go there and make this a powerhouse program," Huggins said. "Everybody keeps leaving the state, but what if we stay home? Then, we can say it was us who change the program around.

"That's what I want to do, and that's why I came. I want to be a leader and be part of history, and I want to contribute to it."

Huggins, who played at St. Peter's Prep and will enroll at Rutgers on May 31, chose the Scarlet Knights largely because of the relationship he built with the coaching staff and the players in the program during his extensive recruitment.

He shared that with the recruits on campus, most of whom he knows from the recruiting circuit and from playing with or against them.

"I was just trying to make them feel comfortable," Huggins said. "If they had any questions, I tell them how my process went, what to expect, what coaches are going to say to you, how to go about certain things.

"It was just things like that, give them some advice and some feedback, and (hear) about how they feel about different schools, and how I looked at the schools. I was just helping them through the process because I know it's a long, hard process. Anything I can help them with, I'll help them with it."

Huggins was a frequent visitor to Rutgers in the year leading up to signing day, making at least a dozen trips and speaking on the phone countless times. But he said he was never pressured by the Scarlet Knights' staff to make a decision off of his own timetable, and that played a big role in his selection.

"It wasn't always talking about football," Huggins said. "I could talk to them about life, and how their day was going. We got to that level where we could talk about anything. That's what it all really came down to, the relationship thing, and how I felt outside of football."

Because of a busy track schedule, Huggins was making his first visit to spring practice, but it wasn't his first trip to Rutgers this spring. He has been visiting campus several times a week to work out in the Hale Center and meet with the coaching staff to learn the offense.

His main business Thursday was meeting with recruits, and he plans on returning Saturday for the scrimmage and to speak with other recruits.

But those likely won't be his only two visits to practice this spring.

On April 30, Huggins will run in the Penn Relays, then hustle north to attend Rutgers' spring game at 3 p.m.

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