Awards Abound for Rutgers Football

Though the regular season campaign of 2006 has come to a close, this past week saw another media blitz focused squarely on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football program. Several Scarlet Knights were recognized this past week by their peers as among the best in their trade.

The week began on as bright a note as possible. For years, indeed since Rutgers Football Coach Greg Schiano's arrival on the Banks, Hurricane fans and those opposing Rutgers, had loudly voiced their opinions on the impossibility of success of the program from the north. While RU would be able to achieve a modicum of success, a significant part of it due to RU's south Florida recruitment, the budding Big East program had never defeated the mighty Hurricanes in a one-on-one recruiting battle. A victory had been achieved by "Da U" every time the pair had butted heads.

Until this Monday.

Greg Schiano, Rutgers biggest recruiting coup ever, publicly took himself out of the running of the Miami job (again).

What it amounted to, in reality, was a flat out rejection of the once mighty Hurricane program and a declaration of the ever-shifting landscape of college football's powers.

"All along I've said the same thing. What we're doing here, we're just scratching the surface. The sky is the limit here at Rutgers and we're going to do great things and we haven't done them yet. We've won 10 games and that's great, but the seniors have laid the foundation for really, really big things," stated Schiano earlier this week during his regularly scheduled Monday press conference.

The potential Schiano initially saw in Rutgers is what millions have seen during the course of 2006. And the upside of winning at Rutgers is something that cannot be duplicated at Miami. In Miami's heyday, the attention will never compare to the gushing of the NYC Media over what has become the Big Apple's program.

Later that day, Rutgers Football Sr. linebacker Devraun Thompson (Piscataway, N.J.) was named the Big East Football Defensive Player of the Week. Thompson recorded a career 12 tackles, including nine solo stops, and his second interception of the season in a 41-39 loss to the second place (in the BE) Mountaineers. Thompson, the local HS football standout, has now entered the top-10 in Rutgers history in career tackles (294) and currently stands at #8 all-time. The BE DPOW honor was Thompson's second on the year, his first such recognition received for his performance versus then #3 Louisville in a 28-25 Rutgers victory.

On Tuesday evening, Rutgers do-it-all FB Brian Leonard, the face of the resurgent Rutgers Football program, became the 17th recipient of the Draddy Trophy, recognizing an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. Leonard is the first BE player to receive the "Academic Heisman" since Joaquin Gonzalez of Miami in 2001.

The Big East recognized Rutgers' head man as Conference Coach of the Year on Wednesday but the major Schiano highlight of the week was viewed by millions as The Home Depot National Coach of the Year honors were publicly announced on ESPN. And once more, Schiano would bring home the hardware.

"It was just changing a culture," stated Schiano when asked what about his job was most difficult upon arriving at Rutgers. "Not only on the football team, but a culture in a university and in a state and in a region, and slowly but surely our players have been able to do that," continued Schiano.

"Rutgers and New Jersey is home, and the young men that made the commitment to come to Rutgers when certainly there was not a lot of reason to do it, other than trust, I owe all those men a lot of thanks and gratitude."

The Scarlet Knights' 10-win season was highlighted by All-Big East honors for 14 of RU's scholar-athletes, including RU Sr. TE Clark Harris who has become the first Scarlet Knight in school history to be named a three-time BIG EAST first-team all-conference honoree.

Ray Rice's sensational second season was capped off by a pair of national awards. After rushing for 1,495 yards and 17 TDs on the season, Raymell Rice was named a Second Team All-America by the Walter Camp Football Foundation on Thursday, and one of only four nominees for the 2006 Cingular All-America Player of the Year. The remaining three finalists include Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, Notre Dame signal-caller Brady Quinn, and heisman trophy winner Troy Smith.

Only fans will be involved in the decision making process - they determine the winner by text messaging "VOTE" to "87654" on their wireless phone and casting their votes for the nominees. Voting will conclude on January 5 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

Jr. DT Eric Foster's chop-ful season culminated with his being named to The Football Writers Association of America's 63rd All-America Team. Foster was tabbed as a First Team All-America Defense after registering 51 tackles, 13.5 for loss and six sacks during the 2006 campaign.

With most of the glitz and glamour part as parcel of the national awards ceremonies and with this stage of the season behind them, RU has found its way back on to the gridiron and has begun preparation for the December 28th Texas Bowl match against Kansas State.

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