"If you come here, you can make a name for yourself."
That’s what Rutgers University junior wide receiver Brandon Coleman told Manalapan High School senior Saeed Blacknall during Blacknall’s visits to Rutgers over the last two weeks.
Blacknall previously narrowed his choices to Alabama, Louisiana State, Ohio State and Notre Dame. Blacknall announced he would attend Rutgers over the weekend, during the Scarlet Knights’ kickoff weekend, which included the team’s first scrimmage of 2013.
“I used to love coming up here and talking to some of the players, get a feel for things from their perspective,” Coleman said following the team’s practice Monday morning. “That’s what I wanted to do, just give him a feel for things from my perspective.”
He is pegged as the top receiver in the state and the preseason Offensive Player of the Year in Athlon Sports’ inaugural National High School Football Preview.
He caught 40 passes for 743 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, and ran a 10.9 100-meter race as a member of the track and field team in the spring.
“I was curious to see what his interests were and what he was looking for,” Coleman said. “He seemed to fit in with us. I let him know he could come here and make a name for himself.”
For an example of making a name for yourself at Rutgers, one need look only to the recent past.
After leading New Rochelle High School to a New York state championship in 2003, Ray Rice selected Rutgers over Syracuse, was starting at running back by the end of his freshman year and left Rutgers with 11 school records in three years.
Last year, he won a Super Bowl as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.
Coleman is the latest Scarlet Knight making his way into the record books.
On the field last season, Coleman tied a Rutgers school record with 10 touchdown catches, and is currently fifth on the school's career touchdown catches list with 16. He led the team with 718 receiving yards, and was named second team all-Big East.
Coleman will still be on the roster next season, should he choose to return for his senior year. Heading into this season, the Scarlet Knights have 10 wide receivers on the roster from the freshman, sophomore and junior classes, including Coleman.
The younger receivers on the squad received some extra attention in the offseason, as Coleman missed spring practice and is limited in training camp following knee surgery.
In Blacknall, Rutgers now has its highest ranked recruit
yet for the 2014 class, beating out the two-time defending national champions
(Alabama), the runners-up in the last two title games (Notre Dame and Louisiana
State) and Ohio State, the only undefeated team in the country in 2012.
Coleman didn’t comment on whether he saw this as a coup for the football program heading into Big 10 play in 2014. He just described Blacknall as a “good fit” for the team.
“I’m glad a local guy is staying home,” Coleman said. “He’s down to Earth and he’ll fit in here.”