This year, an overwhelming majority of the Rutgers freshman class looks like it will be heading for a redshirt season. However, there will be a few select players who make their way onto the field as true freshmen. Linebacker Steve Longa is an early favorite to be among that select few.
His performance through the first week of training camp caught the eye of head coach Kyle Flood.
"I think Steve Longa is going to have a role for us on this team," Flood said following yesterday's afternoon practice. "…How big that role is will be determined this week."
Ironically, Longa is still only 17 years and will not celebrate his 18th birthday until the end of September. He is suddenly playing against more veteran competition, some of which is six to seven years his senior.
"It's pretty crazy, now I'm finally playing with grown men," said Longa, a three-star prospect from Saddle Brook High School in North Jersey. "I think I am the youngest on the team, but nobody's going to hold back against me."
Longa admitted he had a 'welcome to college football' moment over the weekend.
"When I got hit in the scrimmage by the tight end Tyler [Kroft], I stood up and was like 'wow that's my first college hit.' I wasn't mad, I was kind of happy. I used that in a way to kind of humor myself and not to get mad. I just took it in, it's going to happen."
Thus far, Longa has not handled himself like a typical 17-year old, but instead has showed a fair amount of poise for a player in his first month of college football.
"I'm just learning day by day," Longa said. "Some things come easy, some things I have to keep working at. That's why we have practice. I get my reps every day and just try to get better."
That kind of poise has earned Longa some run with the second-team defense.
"I've been getting a little bit of reps with the second team but when I get my opportunity I am just going to try and do what I'm supposed to do and hope for the best," he said.
Some additional bulk added over the summer has also been a benefit.
"I put on a little more weight, maybe like five pounds," Longa said. "The summer time helped me learn my plays so when I came in with the team, I kind of had an idea already. That helped me a lot."
For now, Longa will remain at the weakside linebacker position as he has yet to line up on the strongside.
That is just fine with the true freshman.
"I love the WILL, that's what I played in high school. They recruited me as a WiLL linebacker and I love it."
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