By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 5, 2014) – In the months before preseason camp starts, when Rutgers football players are pushing themselves to their physical limits by running sprints after they get done lifting, with only their inner resolve to keep them going, it’s for days like today.
Blazing sun. Full pads. The return of contact. And a temperature on the field turf during practice that bubbled over at 99 degrees.
“You could really feel it today,” quarterback Gary Nova said of the heat, made more oppressive by the lack of even the slightest breeze. “Your feet start burning up. You feel like your socks are on fire. You’re profusely sweating even when you’re stretching. But that’s camp. You expect it.”
It’s something the players never get used to – especially the linemen, many of whom weigh near or above 300 pounds. But center Betim Bujari said you learn to tolerate it through training.
“You can’t let it be a factor,” he said. “We know it’s going to be hot. It’s August in New Jersey. But you can’t let it affect you. If you start thinking about it then it changes your mindset for practice and that’s never good.
“The whole summer we did a great job of conditioning just for this. (Strength and conditioning) coach (Jeremy) Cole and his staff did a great job with us getting us ready.”
Heat and humidity are always among the biggest challenges of preseason camp in August, but today’s fifth practice marked the hottest day yet for the players. The return of contact and full pads only added to the uncomfortable conditions.
“Obviously with the new turf and the black beads everywhere you could feel the heat radiate,” middle linebacker Kevin Snyder said. “You can definitely feel it – and you can see it. It’s one of those things that once you start playing you’ve got to try to zone it out as best you can. Obviously, heat is going to be a factor at some point in games so you’ve got to find a way to fight through it.
“I think this might have been a little hotter than what we usually get but it’s good to get a practice like this in so we know what to expect as we go forward this summer.”
The heat didn’t claim any victims, which is probably a testament to this team’s conditioning.
“This is why you come in every day of the week in the summer (before camp starts) and working out in some way,” Snyder said. “It’s why we run after we lift on the stadium turf right in the middle of the day at 3 or 4 o’clock. That kind of trains you for this kind of environment.”
Nova said a day like this one is the best test for the shape a team is in. There’s no hiding from the elements if you haven’t put in your offseason work.
“When you’re running in the stadium in June and July and it’s hot and the sun is blazing you’re thinking about days like this in camp when you have to push through,” he said. “It’s tough. But we do that because of days like this. That’s what being a good team is about -- getting through these days. And we did that today.”