Gareef Glashen was, at best a role player during his first four years at Rutgers. The cornerback from Miami (Fla.) played sparingly behind a group of experienced players and was one of seven guys to start at the position in 2013.
Glashen now finds himself as the top dog at cornerback with a strong senior showing and nine straight starts to begin the season.
What made Glashen the top dog? He credits three days a week of down dog, and a dozen other positions learned in yoga class.
“I’ve seen it help every muscle,” Glashen said. “It’s more than just my hips. The instructors try to flex out all of your muscles from ankles to knees, quads, hips, back, neck. I think it helps everything. When you’re more loose and more flexible, you’re just a better football player.”
Glashen is the lone cornerback healthy enough to play every game in 2014 for Rutgers. From dealing with injuries to breathing to mental toughness, yoga gets credit for Glashen’s improved on-field product.
Glashen already has his career high with 42 tackles to go along with his second interception and eight breakups in coverage. The Rutgers defense continues to struggle as a whole, but passing yards per game are down 81 yards per game. Glashen was the point man in defending Michigan’s Devin Funchess in the 26-24 victory and had the coverage on Navy’s failed fourth-down touchdown attempt.
“My approach is very different, and that’s the change you’re seeing, I think,” Glashen said. “I’ve always worked hard but I’m watching a lot more film, eating better, yoga class three times a week to get flexible and opening my hips. I’m going hard each and every drill in practice. By the time we get three-quarters through practice, I’m drained. I’m exhausted and I keep pushing forward.”
Attempts to recruit teammates to his tri-weekly classes fell on deaf ears. Glashen considers himself to be adventurous – you have to be to pack up your life in Miami and move to a freezing cold New Jersey to play for Greg Schiano and Kyle Flood – and yoga showed plenty of benefits after some initial research.
“Ok, first you have to realize I’m a different kind of guy,” Glashen said. “One day I was walking through Werblin [Gymnasium] and a lot of people were doing yoga. I saw no guys. That’s how I always saw it on TV too. I’ve always been interested in things like that, so I tried it out one time and I liked it. I just kept going and doing it. It’s something I can have as a hobby.”
The hobby paid off for Glashen on the field, and remains in his plans for a pursuit of an NFL career in 2015.
“You need that flexibility especially as a cornerback,” Glashen said. “I’m always flipping my hips and bursting and getting in and out of breaks. My flexibility is up and it keeps me calm also. I feel like if I keep doing it, I can be better and better each and every year that I continue my football career. I know it’s going to help me.”
It takes a lot more than yoga in Glashen’s leap from junior to senior year.
“When I was younger, I was watching film but I wouldn’t say I understood how to watch it,” Glashen said. “I know what to look for now. I understand what concepts to look for, what offenses are trying to do on first and third downs. You look at every game of quarterback tendencies and who they like to throw the ball to in difference situations. What are the hot routes on certain plays? I understand that a lot more.”
Ryan and Jones moved on to NFL careers, and Waters joins Glashen in senior day honors against Indiana after the bye week.
“It’s been a long journey,” Glashen said. “I had fun. It wasn’t always easy I’ve enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to it on Saturday. It’s important to get a win every game, senior day too.”