Kitchen Competing For Starting Position

PISCATAWAY, N.J.— Zaire Kitchen could have retired from football after he suffered the first of three separate knee injuries. Yet the military prep school graduate refused to quit.

"Honestly, after I tore my ACL the first time, freshman year, I came back, I tore my other knee. I thought my football career was done," Kitchen, a junior defensive back of the Scarlet Knights, said. "So I spoke to my coaches, my family voted for me, keep (me) working hard.

"I told myself, (if) ‘I could play, I'm gonna try to play.'"

Kitchen had competed in 20 career games surrounding the independent procedures, and had earned an important, game-saving interception against No. 2 South Florida last season.

That pick not only snapped the Bulls' undefeated streak to start the season at six, it also helped the Scarlet Knights to defeat their highest-ranked opponent in school history.

"That made me feel real good, because I didn't expect to play that much early in the season," he recalled about the achievement, "because I had surgery two months after then. Just to get on the field and get some reps and South Florida was No. 2 in the nation at that time, so the interception felt real good."

A Hightstown, N.J. native, Kitchen graduated from Hargrave Military Academy, a college preparatory secondary boy's military boarding school, in Chatham, V.A, where he played football. He acknowledged the school's strict regiment for an easier adjustment to college life.

"Coming from Hargrave to here, actually, like class-wise and schedule-wise, it was kinda easy, because in military we had to wear uniforms, we had two hours of study about every night, get up in the morning and get to bed at a certain time," Kitchen said. "Everything was so structured, technique, everything was pinpoint, had to be done a certain way and we had to do it that way here. Hargrave gets you prepared structure-wise."

In the meantime, Kitchen has fully rehabilitated, stretched and returned to discover a growing battle among the safeties, including Joe Lefeged and Davon Smart.

"I think Zaire is playing well," Knights head coach Greg Schiano said. "So is Joe (Lefeged)."

After he heard that Schiano offered him a few encouraging words, Kitchen said he even surprised himself because of the discrepancy of drills he had not performed since last year.

Finally, after three knee operations, which could have forced an early retirement, Kitchen has healthily returned to Rutgers Stadium to deliver crushing blows to his Knights' counterparts during the summer training sessions.

Fresno State should start to watch video, prepare for the Knights, especially for Kitchen.

Kitchen is healthy, vigorous and dangerous.

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