Carrying on a tradition

Rutgers concluded its last practice of the season with the tradition of underclassmen carrying the seniors from the practice field. It is a day of mixed emotions for the players, who are excited about finally getting their chance for a free ride, but also understanding it means their college career is almost over. That happens Satuday when Rutgers plays Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Ryan Blaszczyk was concerned about falling but Ryan D'Imperio liked his stability, and Devin McCourty had "bittersweet'' emotions coursing through his body.

One of the most enjoyable traditions was carried out Thursday as Rutgers ended its last practice of the season as teammates carried the seniors off the field as the Scarlet Knights practiced for the last time leading up to Saturday's St. Petersburg Bowl against Central Florida.

"I think it's a great tradition because the seniors work so hard over their four or five years,'' Blaszczyk said. "Being carried off on their last day really shows the amount of respect the coaching staff and the other players have for the senior class.''

Four guys took Blaszczyk, a center, off the field, quarterback Tom Savage piggy-backed Jabu Lovelace from St. Petersburg Catholic High's field and even coach Greg Schiano got into the act, shuttling long-time equipment manager Pat Manning.

"Pat's a special guy,'' Schiano said. "He kind of retired a couple years ago and then he couldn't stay away so now he's going. He's told me he's going. He's only been at practice these last couple, but I'll believe it when I see it. I told him ‘Don't make me do this again.' "

As for the seniors, there is no turning back.

"It was emotional,'' Blaszczyk said. "Coming out for the last practice and having to pick a few guys on the offensive line to carry me off …I remember doing that the last four years, and it was very emotional realizing it's almost over.''

Blaszczyk was carried off by Caleb Ruch, Mo Lange, Beau Bachety and Nick Walls.

"I picked squatty guys so they could get me off (the ground),'' Blaszczyk said. "Mo's a big guy, so he was keeping me stable.''

Last year McCourty, a cornerback, helped carry his twin brother, Jason.

"Just looking back on it, you'll never wear that Rutgers helmet again and go out there and practice,'' McCourty said. "It's something you look forward to because you remember carrying guys off your freshman year, but you don't really understand what it's about.''

Fellow linebackers Jim Dumont and Manny Abreu carried D'Imperio from the field. "I was up high,'' D'Imperio said. "I felt stable, unlike Blaszczyk, and it was a good time.''

However, the camaraderie and fun atmosphere is tinged with sadness.

"You know it's the last time and that runs through your head,'' D'Imperio said. "But at the same time you start thinking about all the stuff you've been through, and all the good times.''

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