Abreu Ready To Start on the Strong Side

Off the field, Manny Abreu is known as a traveler. He has already spent time in the Dominican Republic, Utah, Brooklyn, N.Y. and, now, Piscataway, N.J.

At his current stop, Abreu assumes an important role in Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano's defensive scheme as the starting strongside linebacker.

Last year, Abreu struggled to learn the playbook, understand the collegiate football nature and transition smoothly.

"I didn't know the whole defense," Abreu said. "I was confused at times. But it's different. It's a whole different level, colleges and stuff."

Since, he has adopted a positive approach, made necessary strides and adjusted quickly.

"I hope he can pick off where he left off his spring," Schiano said after Tuesday's first on-field training camp session. "He's got the physical abilities to be a tremendous player. It just matters how long it takes him to get all that. Hopefully that'll just continue."

At home, Abreu's family members have noticed a heavier sibling who has gained 30 pounds since coming to Rutgers two years ago.

"They tell me I got a lot bigger," Abreu said, lightheartedly. "Yeah, they usually do. They joke around with me that you're gonna eat a lot more."

Attributing preparation and training to his teammates comes easy for Abreu.

"My teammates have been mostly preparing me," he said. "Throughout most of the spring, they guided me and I thank them for that."

Abreu said putting on muscle did not concern him as much as off-the-field studying and reviewing playbook.

"The lifting and getting bigger comes natural," he said. "The study, books, the defense, that takes time."

Now 30 pounds heavier, Abreu maintains an important position in Schiano's front seven. Although several players retain more veteran experience, the coach said he stands firm with Abreu at the Sam (strong side).

For Abreu, football was not always first nature.

He only started to compete freshman year in high school after his brother persuaded him. But Abreu wasted little time once his quarterback snapped the ball.

"Actually, the first day I put pads on I broke the starting cornerback's collarbone," Abreu said. "I was playing tight end. I caught it, he hit me and I ran him over and that was it for him. That was how it all started."

"It was tough, tough time finding a lot of Latinos, but the church helped me out," he said.

From his birthplace in Dominican Republic to Rutgers football in Piscataway, Abreu has traveled throughout North America and the Caribbean Islands.

Adjusting to different backgrounds took time for Abreu, who remains focused and excited about training camp.

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