Rutgers commit suffers season-ending injury

East Stroudsburg (Pa.) South middle linebaclker Sam Bergen worked hard to recover from a torn ACL during his junior season to earn a scholarship offer from the Scarlet Knights last month. He acccepted and was the 10th member of the 2010 recruiting class, but tore the ACL in his other knee Friday. Will the Scarlet Knights honor the scholarship offer? Find out here.

The pain, disappointment and fear ripping through Sam Bergen's body and mind subsided quickly, shortly after he told the Rutgers coaching staff he suffered a season-ending right knee injury.

With a few poignant words from the Scarlet Knights' coaching staff, Bergen's world slowed down again and almost everything was fine. Bergen, a middle linebacker from East Stoudsburg (Pa.) South High, gave a non-binding oral commitment to Rutgers on Oct. 10.

However, since nothing becomes official until national letter of intent signing day in February, either side can back out. And with Bergen facing a long rehab after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee Oct. 30 against Hazelton (Pa.), Rutgers could have done just that.

And it didn't help this injury came a little more than a year after Bergen tore the ACL in his left knee.

"They told me nothing is going to change and I'm still the guy,'' Bergen said Wednesday. "It was a huge relief, especially since I just came off of (surgery on) the other one, and I worked so hard to get that offer. It felt good and I was relieved to know I'm still going there.''

NCAA rules prohibit Rutgers from discussing recruits until a signed national letter of intent is received.

Honoring a commitment despite a major injury seems an easy moral and ethical decision, but not all schools operate that way.

Rutgers learned that in glorious fashion early in coach Greg Schiano's tenure when the Scarlet Knights landed Brian Leonard. One of the determining factors in Leonard's recruitment was Rutgers' treatment of his brother, Nate, who tore his ACL in high school and then saw nearly every school turn the other way …except Rutgers.

East Stroudsburgh High coach, Ed Christian, said Bergen was concerned Rutgers would pull the scholarship offer once the extent of his injury was learned.

"Oh, yeah. That is what he is worried about,'' Christian said. "He was going to Rutgers. He wasn't thinking about going any place else.''

Although the rehab is long, monotonous and stressful, at least Bergen knows the routine. Two games into his junior season he suffered the same injury in his left knee. He missed the rest of the 2008 season, but worked diligently to rehab it and didn't show any lingering effects when he returned this season.

"He was very, very, very strong,'' Christian said. "His leg was actually stronger than it was before he injured it. There wasn't one time from the time he stepped on the field in August that there was even a shadow of doubt.''

Bergen learned he will undergo surgery Nov. 24. The same surgeon who handled the first surgery, New York Giants team physician Dr. Russell Warren, will also handle this one.

Familiarity should continue with the rehab. Last time Bergen rehabbed with Lehigh University strength and conditioning coach Eric Markovcy, and the plan is to do the same thing again.

"I'm approaching it with a positive attitude,'' Bergen said. "I can't go back and change it, so I will continue to do it and put in the hard work and be ready for next summer.''

Bergen believes his knee will be healthy in time for the start of August training camp. His biggest disappointment now is not being able to finish a strong season for the Cavaliers, who are 8-1. He was their leading tackler, and the backbone of a defense allowing 7.9 points per game.

"I'm feeling all right, for the situation,'' Bergen said. "Obviously, I wanted to finish the rest of the season. My team is doing really good, but there's nothing I can do about it. "It's definitely going to be a big positive knowing I've already been through it and came back from it.''

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