As Kiy Hester enters his fourth year at Rutgers, his role in the football program changes.
After Hester spent two years as an underclassman and student of the game, he becomes a leader in the secondary.
With a young crop of defensive backs behind him and the rest of the starters, he embraces it.
“I had to,” said Hester, a rising junior. “I’ve been back there for a while. I’m one of the guys they look at to go hard in the weight room, on and off the field. So, for me, I took that role myself — come out here and just try to pick these guys up.
“When we’re getting tired or we’re getting down, I’m going to try to be the guy that tells them, ‘Let’s go, we got to keep pushing, playing great defense.’”
While Hester certainly flashed his potential throughout his first two seasons, he only has 11 starts and 18 games played. Injuries nagged Hester last year as he missed four games.
As Anthony Cioffi and his 33 starts in four years leave, Rutgers tabs Hester as his replacement.
“I’ve been a little banged up ever since I’ve been here,” Hester said. “Coach (Kenny) Parker’s talking about having routines, keeping my body healthy. That goes with having the right diet, hydrating on and off the field, things like that, keeping my body healthy for the full season.”
Defensive backs coach Bill Busch sees the progress in Hester. Busch said the 6-foot, 211-pound safety is having a “great” spring.
Hester credits Busch for the developmental advice.
“Coach Busch is a great coach,” Hester said. “He’s just teaching the little things, and once we clean those up, we’ll be great back there as a whole secondary, even with the corners.”
Hester said he has a better grasp on the scheme and the speed needed to play in it at a high level.
“What’s different is we’re more comfortable with the playbook, so we’re moving a lot faster,” Hester said. “We don’t have to think a lot, just thinking less and just reacting to the ball. We know our calls, we know each other, just kind of make up for each other in different ways, so we’re just flying around.”
With former Rutgers defensive back and current New England Patriots safety Duron Harmon set to guest coach the spring game Saturday, Hester is eager to learn from one of the best.
“I’m definitely going to pick his brain about plays and formations and calls and stuff,” Hester said. “That’s one of the things I like to do, even when Devin (McCourty) and other DBs come around, you try to just pick their brains and see how they transition from here and how their mindset changes when they go to the NFL and how it changes now in their third, fourth year (at Rutgers) becoming veterans, trying to pick their brains about little stuff, things like that, on the field.”