By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 12, 2014) – Two-time captains aren’t particularly rare at Rutgers recently, but those achieving the distinction have had to prove they deserved the honor the second time around.
Quarterback Gary Nova did just that as a junior last year, having been benched for the final three games after he started the previous 23 – a test of leadership, character and captaincy worthiness if there ever was one.
Nova passed it easily.
So it came as little surprise that the Scarlet Knights’ senior quarterback attained two-time captaincy, being named today as one of the official team leaders along with strong safety Lorenzo Waters, defensive lineman David Milewski, defensive tackle Darius Hamilton and fullback Michael Burton following a vote of the players.
It’s an eclectic group, ranging from the highest-ranked recruit in school history (Hamilton, also the only junior in the quintet) to a walk-on (Michael Burton).
And, of course, Nova, who joined Mike Teel (2007-08), Eric Foster (2006-07), Tres Moses (2004-05), L.J. Smith (2001-02), Gary Brackett (2001-02), Shawn Seabrooks (2001-02) and Brian Sheridan (1995 and 1997) as the eighth two-time Rutgers captain in the past 20 years.
“Pretty much the best test possible,” Nova said of his 2013 season. “I pretty much went through the highest of the high and the lowest of the lows. I’m just excited for this year, not expecting anything and like coach (Ralph) Friedgen says `just shoot all of our bullets.’ ”
Nova said this honor ranks with any he has achieved in his four years, saying “this is something I’ll remember forever.”
“Just to come back and for them to recognize me as a captain means a lot,” he added.
Nova said he wasn’t aware until being told today that Teel, now a graduate assistant coach, was the last two-time captain. But his career arc has followed the career passer leader in Rutgers history. Both were unbeaten as starters their final two years at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J.
“I copy everything he does,” Nova said with a laugh.
Waters, Burton and Milewski are all fifth-year seniors, each with a different story. Waters is a three-year starter, Burton is the latest walk-on success story at Rutgers (Howard Barbieri in 2010 was the last walkon to ascend to captain) and Milewski overcame three knee surgeries.
“It’s definitely an honor,” said Waters. “The fact that these guys trust me and would choose me to be their captain is a big honor and I’m not going to take this opportunity lightly. I’m going to really step up to the plate and be a great captain for this team.”
Waters said he would most like to emulate a captain from his freshman year in 2010 -- safety Joe Lefeged.
“I’ve seen a few (captains) but I’ve always watched and looked up to Joe Lefeged when he was here back in the day when I was a freshman,” Waters said. “I just loved the way he practiced, loved the way he attacked things, loved how he related to the guys and I’d like to be someone like him.
“And he’s from Maryland. And he’s my cousin.”
Milewski called it “a tremendous honor,” being voted captain.
“I’m humbled very much that my teammates would pick me to be a captain,” he said. “It’s very exciting. I heard a quote one time that `leadership is meant to serve and not to be served’ and I think that’s the kind of leadership I hope to give this team.”