"The first time when I thought about Rutgers was during my junior year when my AAU team was working one of the concession stands for their game against Michigan State. I was very impressed with the way everyone stayed there until the very end, until the last whistle," said Hardison.
Matt Hardison's commitment last week may have come as a bit of a surprise. In recent weeks, the standout athlete from Freehold, NJ, had claimed Delaware, historically one of the better 1-AA programs in the nation, as his leader despite interest and offers from Rutgers and others.
"I liked Rutgers all along and I had been talking to Coach Susan in recent weeks and he was telling me how much he wanted me to be a part of their program," said Hardison.
"I talked to a lot of people around me and many of them wanted me to go to Rutgers. Alot of them were telling me how different the two levels of football [1-A and 1-AA] were and that was something I took into consideration," continued Hardison.
Folks, however, should not be misled into thinking that Rutgers and Delaware were Hardison's only options.
"I had offers from Connecticut, Delaware, Temple, Syracuse, Ohio, Louisville, Cincinnati and a couple others that I can't remember," said Hardison. Among the more influential people involved in Hardison's decision process was his coach Rashod Swinger, a former Rutgers defensive tackle standout and NFL player for the Arizona Cardinals. Swinger, who coaches Hardison on both sides of the ball, believes that Hardison could be a dominant TE in college, due to his speed, size, and hands which help separate him from other players at his position.
Hardison's mother, however, was most influential.
"My mom really wanted me to go [to Rutgers]. She works with alot of Rutgers alumni and she really wanted me to stay close to home," said Hardison.
Despite pulling the trigger in favor of Rutgers, as well as being impressed with the Scarlet Knight's performance in the Insight Bowl, Hardison remains open to the possibility of a few more visits.
"I'm still thinking about taking a couple more visits. One to Delaware and one to Temple," stated Hardison.
The visit to Delaware may not come as a surprise since Hardison has long looked at the 1-AA school as one of his favorites. The visit to Temple, however, may raise a few eyebrows.
"I had an offer to Temple before there was a coaching change [at Temple]. When the coaching change came around the old staff told the new staff about me and Coach Golden about me and he let me know that I still had an offer."
Coach Golden was recruiting Hardison for Virginia while on the Cavalier staff and is now trying to make a late push for the New Jersey standout.
Hardison insists he remains unsure whether he will take these additional two visits.
At 6-foot-3 and 220-pounds, Hardison's commiment to Rutgers allows the RU staff flexibility. Hardison was recruited to Rutgers as a defensive end. Due to his long wing span and speed, Hardison could bring immediate relief for the Scarlet Knights at a position that will sorely need it after two defensive stars graduate this season. However, due to his overall athleticism, Hardison could be moved to LB or TE as well.
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