MD Tandem Ready To Make Some Noise

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – They blend in here among the 85,000 locals, even played football at separate high schools, no less. But, fast forward two years: Jourdan Brooks and Joe Lefeged have brought their individual directions together to Rutgers football program.

"First and foremost, the first thing that caught my attention was the vision that coach Schiano had, the program he's built from day one," Lefeged said recently. "Soon as I came here, the first thing he talked about was national championship."

Brooks echoed similar thoughts towards Schiano, who starts his eighth season at the helm of RU, with Monday's Labor Day showdown with Fresno St.

"I came here because I was really big on academics, and talking to coach Schiano, he told me about how good this school is academically and the vision that he had for this program," he said. "I was really interested in because coming off the 2006 year season; I had never even heard of Rutgers, but then once I'd seen they were an up and coming program, that's something I want to be a part of."

That game that caught Brooks' attention took place in 2006, as No. 15 Rutgers hosted No. 3 Louisville in front of a primetime audience. The Scarlet Knights had started the season 8-0, had even upset the Cardinals 28-25 that night on Jeremy Ito's last-minute field goal, before they settled for the Texas Bowl.

That same game facilitated the program's growth as local and out-of-state high school athletes heard, maybe even watched the Scarlet and White colors that Thursday night.

Real estate agents call it location, location, location. Lefeged appreciated the distance (app. 211 miles) from home to Piscataway.

"One key thing was location," Lefeged said. "I didn't really wanna stay in state, but I didn't wanna go too far from home either. Rutgers' program and the academics staff that we have here were the best fit for me and my family."

However, Lefeged took his time before he committed here.

"I think I had three visits before I committed in June, had a few in the spring," he said. "The day I committed was another day, another visit I had up here."

Likewise, Brooks spoke to several coaches, including Schiano, who impressed him, before he finalized his decision.

"I enjoyed it, Brooks said of the recruiting process. "I got to meet coach Schiano, I got to meet a couple of other head coaches, but I liked Schiano the best, because he came at me real. He told me about the academics and things like that, how I can become a better man here at Rutgers." While Lefeged, a strong safety, impacted the team in his freshman season, Brooks, a halfback, prepared as a member of the scout team and his four years of football eligibility remain intact. Roaming the sidelines though, he also learned and watched RU legend Ray Rice, Brian Leonard and, even, current veterans.

"This program is really coming up fast," Brooks said. "Ever since I got here, (I) learned so much from Ray. He brought this program up, Brian Leonard, all the past people.

"Now we have great leaders like Mike Teel and Devin McCourty and Jay (McCourty) and they're building us."

Lefeged, on the other hand, studied film of veteran NFL safeties, Ed Reed and Bob Sanders.

"I've seen tapes on Ed Reed, Bob Sanders and Troy Polamalu over the summer," he said. "The way they get to the ball, every play you see those three guys, they're top NFL players, their ball skills. Once the ball's in the air, the way they attack the football."

Although Brooks and Lefeged attended different high schools down the block from each other, they were not friends then. That changed after Brooks committed first. He became Rutgers' spokesperson to Lefeged, so to speak.

"After I committed, I spoke to Jourdan, tried to convince him to come up here with me,"

Why?

"Because I knew he was a great player and we became good players when he got up here."

Lefeged blended into the Knights' defensive scheme last season until his devastating quarterback hit in the Maryland and his extensive minutes and performance at Syracuse.

Brooks patiently waited.

"I'm just glad to be in that mix because knowing that says we're all gonna play Fresno State Sept. 1," Brooks said, referring to running backs Mason Robinson, Kordell Young and Joe Martinek.

Schiano still has yet to name a starter for the season opener.

Brooks admits that he has butterflies before his first collegiate contest.

"I'm nervous because this is gonna be my first college football game but I'm gonna have to get over it."

Lefeged, meanwhile, is starting round two.


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