By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 19, 2014) – Lorenzo Waters was no different than most of the other 23 players in Rutgers’ 2010 recruiting class. If you’d asked him then if he expected to be finishing up his fifth preseason camp today, which he did, the Scarlet Knights’ strong safety might have responded with one of those “Are you serious?” looks.
“Coming through as a freshman you always think you’re going to go to the (NFL) in three years. No one shows up at college and expects to go through five camps,” he said. “But now that I’ve been through it I can look back on it as a great experience and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Waters, a co-captain, joined seven teammates in rare moment of accomplishment this afternoon that comes from making it through the demanding physical grind of five pre-season camps.
Rutgers officially begins preparation on Wednesday for the opener against Washington State on Aug. 28, meaning the summer grind of camp, a regimen of all football that includes double sessions under a blazing sun in full pads, is over.
Because of attrition, those eight fifth-year seniors are all that’s left of the class of 24 they arrived with. Two of those classmates – wide receiver Brandon Coleman and running back Jawan Jamison – opted for early entry in the NFL Draft.
In addition to Waters, the list making it through all five years consists of cornerback Gareef Glashen, fullback Sam Bergen, fullback Michael Burton, center Betim Bujari, offensive linemen Bryan Leoni and Taj Alexander and defensive end David Milewski (walkon placekicker Nick DeLouisa is also a fifth-year senior, though he has appeared in just one game in his career, for an extra point try).
“Five camps is something to be proud of,” said Bergen. “I’ve been a hard worker most of my time here. This camp was nothing different – I just went out there and worked as hard as I could.”
Burton actually called the end of his final preseason camp “sad.”
“This is what I’ve been doing my whole life,” he said. “August was football camp. That’s all I’ve known. I’ve been fortunate enough to this point to always have camp and football to this point in my life and to be part of this team with this coaching staff it is a little sad it’s my last one.
“Is it a grind? It’s definitely a grind. At the same time it’s not a grind because you know what you’re working for. You know what the end result is. You know what’s to come and how awesome that winning feeling is. So it’s a grind but at the same time you know what’s coming next.”
While the temptation for some of the fifth-year seniors might have been one of relief that their final preseason camp was behind them, they were reminded that even the dog days of a football summer are to be embraced.
That was the theme delivered by former Rutgers stars Shaun O’Hara and Brian Leonard, who spoke to the team following practice today.
“Shaun's message I thought was very appropriate for these guys: `You get to this point in training camp and the monotony of training camp sometimes can set in,’ ” head coach Kyle Flood said. “When you hear somebody who not only played here at Rutgers but also had the kind of career that he had in the NFL talking about really cherishing every moment that you have as a college football player in a program like this, I think it hits home with these guys.”
Both Burton and Waters said their first camp as freshmen was their toughest – Burton because he was trying to make the team as a walk-on and wound up taking every scout team snap the coaches would give him, Waters because he wasn’t accustomed the daily rigors.
“My first camp was definitely a trying time,” said Waters. “I came in as a freshman and all I’d been through is the summer program. To go from that to training camp it was definitely a paradigm shift for me. I wasn’t used to anything as far as the structure of football all day, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep.
“I learned you need to make sure you get some rest when you need it -- and also to bring some snacks because you get tired eating a lot of the healthy food.”
None of the fifth-year seniors noticed a significant difference between their first two camps under Greg Schiano and their last three under Flood, although the practice scheduled times were adjusted this year to coax the maximum productivity from the players.
And the camp ended as it has for more than a decade now: A day at the pool for the team, followed by a barbecue. Players move into their off-campus housing or dorms tomorrow.