Over the last four years, Rutgers has cultivated a pipeline between local high school program, South Brunswick, and Piscataway. Record-breaking receiver Mohamed Sanu and incoming freshman Jevon Tyree both picked the Scarlet Knights over a host of Division I offers, and today, another talented Viking prospect chose to do the same.
Junior athlete TJ Taylor committed to Rutgers this morning, informing head coach Kyle Flood of his intentions before starting his school day. Taylor picked RU over Big East programs Pitt, Syracuse and Temple, among others. He becomes the fifth verbal commitment of the 2013 class, the fourth New Jersey prospect to pledge, and the third commit in the last 12 days.
"Coach Flood was real excited; he said I definitely made his day," Taylor said. "He said he was really happy and that players like me are the kind of guys that are going to help Rutgers win a national championship."
Taylor added his Rutgers offer during spring practice and later took an unofficial to visit to campus with his parents in mid-May. During that visit, they had the opportunity to see the football and academic sides of the program in depth, and while he did not make this public, Taylor left that visit with Rutgers in the drivers seat.
"My parents and I were talking about it for a while and we were leaning towards Rutgers for most of the way," Taylor said. "We were actually going to think about committing a while back but we waited to see what plays out. I received six offers after that, and it was good to see what other schools were interested, but I was talking to my parents and they asked: 'If any school in the country were to give you an offer, would it change your mind about Rutgers?'
"I said, 'Honestly, I don't think any school in the country that would give me an offer would make my decision change.'"
There was no secret formula for Taylor deciding on Rutgers. The combination of academic reputation, location and the South Brunswick connection made it an easy pick.
"Academically, Rutgers is a good school," Taylor said. "I know you can get a good degree coming out of Rutgers. The graduation rate, the APR, all that stuff was always high. Rutgers is No.1 I think in APR and not a lot of schools can say that. Also, I have a lot of family in New Jersey, so they can come see me play. My grandparents live in Piscataway, so that's convenient. They have been to all my games in high school so they can continue that tradition.
"Mo [Sanu] had success there and he decided to go there over a couple of other schools. All the offers Jevon had, he saw that it was a good school. I looked into it and I could see why they decided to go there."
Once Taylor received the blessing of his head coach, Rick Mantz, who was in full support of the decision, he decided to commit. As news spread around South Brunswick High School today, Taylor said he was approached by several students offering congratulations. There was one person in particular he made sure to contact: his current (and future) teammate, Tyree.
"When I was a freshman and he was a sophomore, we used to kid around about how we were going to go to the same school," Taylor explained. "We were playing around but kind of serious at the same time. This year, I looked and saw what he was doing….He decided to go to Rutgers, and before I had offers, I obviously liked Rutgers. It's the in-state school, I've been around the program for a while. That was one of the schools that I liked.
"When he committed to Rutgers on Signing Day, he texted me something like 'Go RU, we're ballin' there.' When I saw that I laughed and congratulated him. When I made the decision, I texted him the same thing. It's good to have someone you're comfortable with to be around for the next four years."
Taylor said he also received a text from Rutgers commit Anthony Cioffi, which he said made him feel a part of the "family."
With his commitment behind him, Taylor can shift his focus to preparing for his senior season and beyond. He has already added 10 pounds to his frame since last fall and said it is now full speed ahead for the future.
"I'm just trying to get bigger, faster and stronger," he said. "I had a pretty successful season last year so I'm trying to just continue that. I want to prepare like I'm going to college right now. If I have the mentality that I'm going to be a college player this year, it will make me even better."