Underwood Shines brightly early on

Junior wide receiver Tiquan Underwood got his chance to shine in the opener this season with a school record 248 receiving yards, but Underwood, it seems, has been destined for this moment.

His aunt and uncle got Underwood into football since he was young and it has always been the sport that he loved. Growing up, Underwood's favorite team was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has kept a love for his team and a good sense of humor.

"We're rebuilding right now," Underwood said, showing a glimpse of that humor that makes Underwood not only an attractive specimen on the gridiron, but also a great character to be around.

The sporting standout of Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey has a rare combination of height and speed out of the receiver position.

In high school, Underwood played three sports. He started for two years on the team's basketball team, ran track, and played quarterback for a season, besides playing receiver the rest of the time for the football team. In fact, Underwood still owns the state record for sophomores and juniors in the triple jump.

"Scheduling (was most important)," Underwood said. "Coach Schiano talks about that all the time, managing your time. I had to learn about that at an early age. With doing so much with sports, you get used to it."

Underwood saw his first significant playing time as a receiver last season, but was not able to enjoy the fruits of the team's labors during the magical season.

In the season finale against West Virginia, Underwood broke his leg and had to miss the Texas Bowl. Before the injury, Underwood had 23 catches for 290 yards and four touchdowns.

Initially, Underwood was upset by the fact that he would miss the bowl game, but he remained positive and focused on cheering his teammates to victory.

The focus for Underwood remains on his teammates. Wide receiver Tim Brown has been out for a few weeks and should be back by this Friday's game against Navy, but despite the fact that Underwood could lose some receptions now that Brown is back, Underwood wants what is best for the team and views the receivers as a group.

"With Timmy being out, every receiver in our core had to step their game up," Underwood said. "But I'm happy to have him back, it makes our offense that much more explosive."

Underwood had to work hard to rehab and was able to participate during spring ball. Quarterback Mike Teel praised Underwood through training camp and Underwood got the chance to prove himself against Buffalo in the opener.

"I was just happy to be back out there with those guys," Underwood said. "With it being the first game back, it made it that much sweeter."

The most impressive play by Underwood was his first touchdown catch, where he had to cut back twice after catching ball across the middle of the field, in order to get into the end zone for the score.

Between Kenny Britt, Underwood, and Brown, Rutgers should have a solid receiving core that will help present another dangerous threat on offense in addition to Heisman trophy candidate running back Ray Rice.

For Underwood, football has always been a love. The development of this junior that has gotten a lot of people talking in one week is a testament to his hard work following the adversity of his leg injury.

The boy that got into football because of his aunt and uncle is still all smiles whenever he talks about his passion: football.

"I just did it 'cause I liked it," Underwood said. "But as I grew up, I saw that I was pretty good at it and I just kept it going."

Tiquan Underwood on his way to the endzone during Rutgers' victory at Navy in 2006.


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