From the former player's perspective or Dad
As I was driving down Rte 18, I remembered my father my first day on the Rutgers Campus. My father was trying to say good-bye. I've never seen my Dad get emotional but he was having trouble getting the words out. At that time an assistant coach came over and said "Mr. Wilkes don't worry were going to take good care of him, he'll be fine". At that point my Dad hugged me and got back into the car. Not until today did I realize what those words really meant. Here it is, 21+ years later and I'm driving my son, Khalil Wilkes, to Junior Day at Rutgers University. I started to understand how my father felt. He wanted to make sure I had someone to look after me. I want the same for my son.
My son and I have been to Rutgers for various sporting events. But this was to see if Rutgers would be a good fit for him. I think we both went into the day not expecting very much. We were both pleasantly surprised. We had lunch in the President's Box overlooking the field. I thought back to when I was a player and we dreamed to play in a stadium with this capacity. I was trying to describe how the stadium looked when I was there (about 32,000 and rarely full). Now they have a waiting list for season tickets. Reminds of the quote from Field of Dreams: "If you build it they will come". I've known Coach Schiano since 1988 when he was a Graduate Assistant for Rutgers. Coach Schiano has done an excellent job at Rutgers. Being from New Jersey he always understood how good Rutgers could be and he's making it a reality. When he spoke to everyone in attendance he spoke about not only his expectations of the program but also his expectations of his players. He expects his players to be good citizens, to watch out for one another and be accountable for their actions. These are things I preach to my son daily. It was refreshing to see that he holds his players to the same values.
Next to speak was a Dean from Rutgers College campus. He spoke about the graduation rate of the school compared to the rest of the country. It was great to see Rutgers being mentioned alongside Northwestern, Stanford, Rice and Duke. He also mentioned that Rutgers had 12 football players make the All Academic Team last season.
After the Dean spoke, Khalil and I were pulled to the side to speak to Coach
Schiano. First thing he told him was "Don't come here just because your
Dad played here". Khalil let him know that if he came to Rutgers it would
be his decision. We went on the rest of the tour of the facilities and I was
very impressed. The training room, weight room, locker room were all first class.
The stadium expansion is really going to put Rutgers on the map. After speaking
to everyone Coach Schiano only wants the best for the program and is going to
settle for nothing less.
From the perspective of the prospect or former player's son
My name is Khalil Wilkes and I am a junior at St. Peter's Preparatory High
School. By this time next year I will be entering my last semester of high school
and looking forward to making the transition to an excellent academic institution
and a big time football program.
On Feb. 9, 2008 I attended Rutgers' Junior Day. On my visit I found out interesting facts about the school, toured the facilities and had an opportunity to meet various other football prospects from a variety of states. Prior to going, I thought I already knew a lot about the school because both of my parents are Rutgers alumni and my aunts live in the area. I had also attended Rutgers football games (such as the USF game) and driven through the campus. Surprisingly, the campus had a lot more to offer than I thought it would.
From being in the President's box to sitting with Coach Schiano, the experience was extraordinary. We started the day by eating in the President's box, which concluded with Coach Schiano introducing the prospects to the coaches and the Dean discussing topics such as Rutgers' history, student life, and academic excellence. The Dean spoke of Rutgers as being in the ranks of great schools like Stanford, Duke, and Northwestern when it came to graduation rates and overall academic excellence. I also found out that Rutgers has a host of successful alumni such as John Gandolfini (main character of the series Sopranos), Randal Pinkett ("The Apprentice" winner), and Greg Brown (President and CEO of Motorola). After being in the President's box, I was called into Coach Schiano's office with another major high school prospect by the name of Torian Phillips from Port Richmond NY where Coach Schiano and I talked about my future college and the recruiting process. Torian and I became good friends and spoke of the recruiting process and our high school teams. Along with Torian I met various other prospects such as Andre Civil and Ayo Isojola of Sheepshead Bay. I also met up with some prospects that I played against such as Isaac Holmes and Michael Douglas of Hoboken and Jason Hendrix of Hudson Catholic. Not to mention the St. Peter's Prep Marauders were there in full effect with prospects such as me, Daryl Greene, Kenny Smith and Shawn Pearson.
After our discussion we went off into our tour groups and visited the different facilities of Rutgers University. On this tour we went inside the bubble, viewed the dorms and practice fields, went inside the rehabilitation office, looked through the weight room and my favorite part ... went on the field. While on the field the tour guide talked about the innovations that will be done in the year 2009. All I can say is that the Hale Center will be something to see in years to come; it will include a huge Jumbotron, new restaurants, more seats for a higher capacity and various other things that the Metropolitan area will be proud of.
And did I mention I went with my father William Wilkes who attended Rutgers University during the years of 1986-1991 on a football scholarship? When my dad was in school Coach Schiano, Coach Demarest, and Coach Fraser were just Grad. Assistants, so I am well acquainted with the coaching staff. As a son of two former graduates of Rutgers I have been constantly told about how great the school is, and constantly asked if their influence will affect my college choice. Rutgers University has always been in me since I was born, but I'm going to pick the best college for me, which by signing day could very well be Rutgers University. My dad and I have talked about Rutgers various times and he would love for me to follow in his footsteps, but I'm going to be fair to all the colleges I'm being recruited by and open minded. As already stated, I spoke personally with Coach Schiano and he informed me that if I were to go to Rutgers, due to my height I would be playing Center. I'm perfectly content with that because I have history in that position, and I feel that I'm athletic enough to get to second level defenders quickly and even pull from the center spot. I also feel that I'm smart enough to play the position and make the calls for the Offensive Line.
After my experience at Rutgers, one thing that I have learned is that Rutgers
has a bright future, just through looking at some of the linemen who were all
6'6" or taller and some of the most built running backs I have ever seen. Whether
I make the decision to go to Rutgers or not, one thing I can assure is that Rutgers
will win championships soon - their coaches are too determined and the prospects
are too talented to accept anything less. Schiano even said "We are here
to win championships", and I truly believed him.
Possibly one day I will contribute to winning championships while in the scarlet red.