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December 12, 2013

Longa robbed of all-conference honors

Rutgers redshirt freshman middle linebacker Steve Longa closed out his first season of college football with an impressive display as the team's most productive and consistent defensive player. The 19-year old Saddle Brook, N.J., product finished the season with a team-high 111 tackles.

"It's nice. I just try and go out there and do my job," Longa said. "111 tackles in my first year of playing, I guess that's pretty nice."

Apparently, it was not nice enough for the AAC. Yesterday, the All-AAC conference team was released and Longa was somehow left off the list.

Only two AAC linebackers who earned all-conference honors had more tackles than Longa. Both of those players, UConn's Yamir Smallwood and Temple's Tyler Matakevich, played for 2-10 teams. Six linebackers were selected as first and second team members, yet Longa, who is already gaining the attention of NFL scouts, was excluded.

Rutgers did have two players selected to the first team in running back Paul James and tight end Tyler Kroft. Return specialist Janarion Grant earned second-team honors as did center Betim Bujari, despite the fact that he only played in eight games while starting just seven.

Regardless of how the curious all-conference selection process of a downtrodden AAC was derived, Longa still has one more game to play in the 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl where he will showcase his skills on a national stage against Notre Dame.

"Playing in Yankee Stadium is going to be awesome. I know it's going to be a great crowd," Longa said. "Notre Dame is a pretty good football team. They have a lot of history behind them so they are going to be a lot of people trying to travel and watch this game."

Longa is also hopeful that the momentum from Rutgers' 31-6 win over South Florida will carry over into the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Longa led the way again in that win with seven tackles as Rutgers surrendered only 151 total yards and eight first downs.

"We executed on offense and on defense and the results came out as they were supposed to," Longa said. "I saw the defense improve on third down. I was part of that so I am kind of happy about that."

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