Darius Hamilton called his shot three years ago. Sitting with family and friends in an MSG Varsity meeting room on Long Island, Hamilton had a message for newly hired coach Kyle Flood after announcing his verbal commitment.
Hamilton and his recruiting class were on the way to change things.
“I don't think [it was a coincidence]," Hamilton said after three others reaffirmed their commitments that day. "I think they're great players and great players want to play with other great players. We're going to do something really special down in Piscataway."
What did Hamilton mean?
More than 53,000 people saw it in person Saturday night.
“No question [this is what I had in mind],” Hamilton said in the locker room after soaking things in. “This is just one of many and I think we’ve got a lot more to go. We’ve got to keep working every day to get better. … It was everything I dreamed and more to see all of those people who support you on the field with you. I’m really happy I got to be a part of that.”
Three years later, Hamilton remembered it, and made sure to remind Flood during the Michigan game.
“I stand out there on the field late in the fourth quarter and I happen to be standing next to Darius,” Flood told the locker room in his postgame speech. “He says ‘Coach, this is why I came here.’ And that can be said for a lot of people, men. That can be said for a lot of people.
“The awesome thing is it’s not only why you came here, Darius, you’re going to be the reason why a lot of people come after you and want to be a part of this.”
Twenty-three high schools seniors and juniors have already decided they want to be a part of it. Most of them stormed the field alongside 10,000 Rutgers students after the game.
“I [have] never been so hype in my life,” said tight end commit Nakia Griffin of Tenafly (N.J.). “Coach Flood, coach [Anthony] Campanile showed me so much love and gave me so much advice. Fans showed love. This program changed so much I can't be more proud to be a Knight."
Weakside linebacker Steve Longa, from Saddle Brook (N.J.), re-affirmed his commitment to Rutgers less than 10 minutes after Hamilton did so. He leads Rutgers with 41 tackles through half of his sophomore season.
Longa committed early to Rutgers, but considered other options after Greg Schiano departed. He stayed like all but one of the class and happily helped Flood earn his signature win.
“Me and Darius and Leonte [Carroo], Davon [Jacobs], Quanzell [Lambert], we all talked about it when we were getting recruited,” Longa said. “After coach Schiano left, we talked about it. That was the plan. Here we are doing it.”
The feeling is not exclusive to the class of 2012.
Cornerback Nadir Barnwell, from Piscataway (N.J.), felt the same way when he committed, also doing so at the MSG Varsity studios.
“It was everything we dreamt of, everything we wanted when we came here,” said Barnwell, who was a four-star prospect and Semper-Fi All-American MVP. “… We said we were going to shock the world. We said we were going to come here to play. We got our first Big Ten win. Congratulations to the coaches. It was amazing.”
Flood foreshadowed the bye week in his day-after teleconference with coaches already out on the road recruiting. Rutgers will be busy within the state to encourage the next wave of New Jersey athletes to take the next step at home.
Rutgers is expected to see many schools within the state, including DePaul (home of Kiy Hester and Davon Jacobs), Bergen Catholic (home of John Tsimis), Don Bosco Prep (home of Gary Nova, Leonte Carroo, Hamilton and Razohnn Gross), Paramus Catholic, Montclair (home of Julian Pinnix-Odrick) and South Brunswick (home of T.J. Taylor and Bryan Stonkus).