Thoughts on the Hollywood, Fl, MSL Combine

I want to share with Rutgers fans some insight and experiences from my recent trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the MSL combine held on March 28, 2006. This was a trip that needed to be undertaken for a multitude of reasons, including a vacation that was quite deserved, and my needing to get a better grasp on the high school football scene in South Florida, and use that as a comparison to the athletes that will be on hand for the Scout.com All-American combine at Rutgers.

I want to share with Rutgers fans some insight and experiences from my trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the MSL combine held on March 28, 2006. This was a trip that needed to be undertaken for a multitude of reasons. For one, I completed a very rigorous and emotionally taxing rotation in medicine the day before and a vacation was quite deserved. Secondly, I wanted to get a better grasp on the high school football scene in South Florida, and use that as a comparison to the athletes that will be on hand for the Scout.com All-American combine at Rutgers. Lets face it, last year Rutgers received half of its commitments from South Florida, and the other half from the tri-state area. Thus, I would be in an improved position to assess between the two primary areas that make up the "State of Rutgers". And lastly, and possibly most importantly, I would get to spend time with Charles Fishbein, a man who I hold in the highest regard on so many levels.

In the following segments, I will disclose my opinions on the South Florida football scene.

On Charles Fishbein: If I could compare a man to Charles, it would be to a young Fred Hill Jr., the current RU men's basketball coach. I say this, as well for a multitude of reasons.

For one, he is a man with extraordinary talents as an evaluator of young football athletes, with an uncanny ability to connect with people and create a level of trust that is seldom seen. Secondly, he is a man on the fringes. It took Fred Hill over 20 years to get his shot. Fred Hill made his interest known in the Rutgers program several years ago and his lack of experience kept him from becoming a Rutgers coach then. If only Rutgers had hired Hill 5-years ago, where would that RU program be now? Similarly, with Charles there is no doubt in the minds of many involved in high-school and college football that he can not only assess and project kids on the next level, but that he is also a man that people believe in. If and when Charles finally gets his shot as a college coach, mark my words, he will be a force to be reckoned with in the college recruiting world. People down there just love the man, and if you get to know him as a person, you most certainly would as well.

Opinions of Players: All I can say is that the persona of kids in South Florida is so different than the persona of kids in the Northeast. These kids just love to compete and have a passion to be the best. There is this exceptional blend of swagger, character, and humility in so many of those young men. These are kids who just want to have a chance to play on the highest level and desire to be valued. The fact that Rutgers invests so much time and energy in kids down there "on and off the field" is the reason RU will continue to be successful in South Florida.

For example, Antwan Easterling, a RB from Northwestern HS in Miami, Florida, and one of the top RBs in the country, is strongly considering Rutgers as his college destination. When asked what schools he favors, the first school he mentioned was "Rutgers". When asked why Rutgers, he answered "because I trust those guys and I can make a difference there".

Another exceptional talent in Florida was Noel Divine. Noel is a player that can elevate a team from the ordinary to the BCS ranks. Noel not only was the top athlete at the camp, but after the camp mentions "thanks for having me, it was so much fun, can I go to the one next week in Tallahassee?"

The combination f humility and honesty, to speak nothing of the skills so many of these young men possess is precisely why Florida, and in particular South Florida, has become a yearly stopover for not only the Rutgers coaching staff, but many of the nation's recruiters.

Getting back to Noel, this is a kid that will have his choice of schools – any school. He has been compared as being in the same mold as Reggie Bush; and the kid is totally oblivious to the hype. These are kids that simply "want to ball", and nothing else.

Driving the point home will be the following experience. When I invited Justin Trattou, from Don Bosco Prep in NJ, to the Scout.com All-American Combine, he responded "I already have plenty of offers - I don't see it benefiting me".

And in all honesty, his view is justified. But the motives are so contrasting!

Opinions on Rutgers from coaches: I was able to get to know several of the high school coaches in South Florida. What they mention is appreciation for the RU camps in Florida and excitement to come up to New Jersey for the RU camps in New Jersey. They have faith that Schiano and Co. will develop their kids as football players and will make sure the kids take care of business in the classroom. When Schiano has mentioned in press conferences that "Rutgers will continue to recruit South Florida and be successful because of built relationships," it became very evident that this message was widely known in the sunshine state, and very appreciated.

The in-roads established are strong. If RU out-recruits established SEC and ACC powers for kids this year, folks should not be surprised. Don't say wow, I cannot believe he chose Rutgers over Florida or Georgia. It is because of these friendships, now long established.

Opinions on Rutgers from players: Some of the top talent, like the aforementioned Easterling, loves Rutgers. On the other hand, many kids have the vintage response of "what's a Rutgers". The Rutgers' camps in Florida are expected to continue to provide more development of football skills for over 600 athletes this summer, while at the same time grant Rutgers the ability to evaluate talent and make an impression as a viable choice amongst many other college powers. It is quite likely that several of these "what's a Rutgers type" will eventually commit to play for Rutgers next year.

Overall review of the camp: MSL asked Charles to invite the top athletes from Orlando to the Keys to attend the combine. Charles got a little over-zealous and left no stone unturned - nearly 450 kids participated. And while it was a very long and drawn out day in order to evaluate this large number of athletes, most of them were grateful to spend another day playing the game they love. It is these types of kids that are significantly responsible for making RU not only a bowl participant, but having a strong hand in it's continued evolvement into a major player on the college football scene.


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