By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 14, 2014) – He’s not the biggest wide receiver Rutgers has, nor the fastest. In reality, he’s a good way off from even being near the top of those charts in either category.
But sophomore John Tsimis has managed to make an impact on the Scarlet Knights’ talented receiving corps because of a simple belief he has.
“If you catch the ball, I feel like they have to play you,” he said.
For as long as the 6-0, 180-pound Tsimis can remember, that has always been his strongest trait. He catches the ball. Not quite everything thrown his way, but close to it.
Head coach Kyle Flood has singled out Tsimis (Harrington Park, N.J.) twice already for strong practice showings in preseason camp this summer. It’s usually because of impressive catches he’s made.
“It’s something I’ve kind of always had and I work on it a lot, catching the ball, using the Jugs machine and having the mentality that you’re not going to drop anything no matter who is around you,” he said.
That singular ability didn’t take long to surface when Tsimis arrived at Rutgers despite missing his senior year at Bergen Catholic High School due to a torn ACL in his left knee. Though he was determined to play as a freshman after missing an entire football season he was a longshot at best to do so.
His pass catching ability eventually made him impossible to overlook.
“It was definitely one of my goals when I got here – I wanted to play right away,” said Tsimis, who caught 50 passes for 754 yards and 11 touchdowns as a high school junior. “After the first week I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. Then I got promoted from the scout team to the travel squad and a couple of weeks later I was playing pretty big snaps.”
Tsimis wound up playing in five games with four catches for 56 yards. He is in line for an even bigger role this season.
Approximately a dozen soldiers were joined by family members from a group of New Jersey National Guard soldiers head coach Kyle Flood spoke to before they were deployed to Qatar earlier this summer as practice guests today.
“It was great to have some of the infantry, the servicemen, and some of their families from the First Battalion 114th Infantry out of Fort Dix – a group I got to speak to before they were deployed,” Flood said. “It was a great honor to do that. It was really nice to host some of those folks up here, both to share our program with them and also give their kids a little bit of a distraction while their fathers and mothers are over in the Middle East securing our safety.”
Saturday’s second and final scrimmage will be the team’s last dress rehearsal before the Aug. 28 opener against Washington State – and will be treated as such. Flood has even scheduled the scrimmage at High Point Solutions Stadium (closed to the public) for 7 p.m., the same time as the kickoff in Seattle against the Cougars.
“Saturday night will be game situations,” Flood said. “We’ll have the coaches in the (press) box, some of the coaches off the field, and we’ll hit pretty much every situation that can come up in a game, including things like 2-point plays in overtime. We’ll hit them all, just like we did last year. I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Flood indicated the scrimmage will be the truest test yet of the Scarlet Knights’ readiness for the season.
“When we get past this scrimmage, as a staff we’ll assess where we are and where do we really feel like we need to put the pieces to give us the best opportunity to win,” he said.
Strong safety Lorenzo Waters, entering his third year as a starter, knows the value of the final scrimmage of the summer.
“It’s definitely our last chance to simulate what the first game is going to be like,” he said.
Flood called the punting competition between Joe Roth and new arrival Tim Gleeson “pretty even.”
“I think they both have their strengths,” he said. “I don’t know that either one is consistent enough just yet. I think Gleeson has a little more variety of kick than Joe does, a little bit like Nick Marsh did last year. That will help us.
“If we played today we’d probably use both of them in different situations, but that’s not necessarily going to be the case when we line up to play Washington State.
Both Roth and Gleeson, who hails from Melbourne, Australia, came to Rutgers from the junior college ranks, though Gleeson kicked in major college games as a freshman at Wyoming. Neither has punted in a game for the Scarlet Knights.