It was not surreptitious that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has an awe and respect towards the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football players and the Rutgers football system. Also it’s no secret former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano (2001 – 2011), currently the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, is part of the tight circle of close friends of Bill Belichick.
Although coach Schiano isn’t influenced by a military background, he certainly appreciates and demands discipline throughout the board. Discipline, integrity and attention to detail are the foundation he requires for anyone who works for him. It’s no wonder he and Belichick can find some common ground. To add to the Rutgers “coincidental” pattern, coach Belichick son, Stephen Belichick who is now part of the coaching staff for the Patriots, joined the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during the summer of 2011 as a long snapper after playing lacrosse there. Sounds like having a pretty good inside information right there!
Besides grabbing two Rutgers players with their only two picks on the third round of this year’s draft, cornerback Logan Ryan with the No. 83 overall pick and safety Duron Harmon at No. 91, Belichick finalized the draft with their final pick in the seventh round at No. 235 adding linebacker Steve Beauharnais and undrafted free agent cornerback Brandon Jones. The Rutgers players list goes on with last year’s addition of undrafted free agent Justin Francis and our great defensive back Devin McCourty in the 2010 NFL Draft. Above and beyond to the quality of product Rutgers tend to produce, Belichick highlights the players taking into consideration of how important football is to them and their team-work mentality as he mentioned on his press conference.
“I think certainly it’s coincidental to a degree. But I just would say that the players – I mean, I’ve known Coach [Greg] Schiano for quite a while. I’d say the players he recruits and the program he runs is in a lot of ways similar to what we do. So the fact that he’s recruited those kids four to five years ahead of when they come into this league and they’ve been in a program that’s, in a lot of ways, probably similar to ours, then it’s probably not that surprising that we would like some of the kids he’s produced, both talent-wise and total makeup. I would say certainly with this group, these three guys, they’re all very bright. Football is important to them. They’ve all been productive. They’re unselfish players. They work hard for the team. They do a lot of little things in the game like communication and special teams and all those types of things. So there’s a common thread: they’re football guys that work hard at it, that have had good careers there and that continue to get better because it’s important to them. And they’re smart, instinctive players.”
Not only is Belichick picking up on the good reputation and “value for the pick”, other coaches in the league have been picking up the vibes as well. In the 2013 NFL Draft, Rutgers University had a school-recorded seven players drafted – the highest was five players back in 2009. The Patriots added some history to the Rutgers book by drafting three players as the most by any NFL team in one NFL Draft.
The other four players selected in this year’s draft were linebacker Khaseem Greene by the Chicago Bears (4th round, pick 117), tight end D.C. Jefferson by the Arizona Cardinals (7th round, pick 219), running back Jawan Jamison by the Washington Redskins (7th round, pick 228), and cornerback Marcus Cooper by the San Francisco 49’ers (7th round, pick 252).
Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano has certainly left his footprints in the Rutgers football program as some of the current NFL players who played under Schiano at Rutgers found to be very successful in their NFL career such as, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, New England Patriots defensive end Justin Francis and cornerback Jason McCourty, San Francisco 49’ers offensive tackle Anthony Davis, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gary Gibson, running back Brian Leonard, wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, and offensive guard Jeremy Zuttah.
With a total of six draft picks, it’s interesting that Greg Schiano didn’t use any of the draft picks on a Rutgers player. However, he selected undrafted free agent wide receiver Tim Wrigth. It will be exciting to see how the puzzle will come into a clear view when Belichick’s and Schiano’s pieces come together as a preview in the August 16th preseason game in Foxboro and as a complete puzzle in the September 12th regular season game again in Foxboro.
Follow Celia Westbrook on Twitter @celiawestbrook