By Wednesday afternoon, Jarrett Guarantano will be either a leader or a follower. That's not to discredit a young man who is just a 17-year old; it just simply shows where his heart is.
Welcome to the biggest decision of your life, young Guarantano, as on Wednesday afternoon the Bergen Catholic star will make his verbal commitment to one of three colleges. Three hats, those of Ohio State and Rutgers and Tennessee, will sit on a desk in a room in his high school, waiting to be put on his head. Tens of thousands of fans from all three of those football programs will click refresh on their Twitter accounts and will check into recruiting websites, hoping that one of the nation's top quarterbacks will pick their school.
Conventional wisdom holds that the national championship allure of Ohio State or the appeal of four years in Knoxville as a Volunteer hold the edge in landing Guarantano. But the No. 91 player in the nation, according to Rivals.com, and a consensus four-star recruit could be bigger than another name in the storied traditions of Ohio State and Tennessee. At that school from New Jersey, at the 'Birthplace of College Football' he can make sure that Rutgers is born again.
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Become a Buckeye, become a Volunteer and Guarantano is just another player who will help them win games. His name could well go down as one of the greats at either school but it won't be the type of name that could get a street named after him in downtown Piscataway or a statue someday outside the Hale Center. At Rutgers he'd be special.
At Rutgers, he'd be 'The One.'
See, Guarantano is a Jersey kid. He's got that swagger that only a teenager from this state can muster. He's part Pauly D, part Ray Lucas, a kid from a state not known for producing quarterbacks but yet here he is, one of the best in the nation.
There is the opportunity to come to Rutgers, now in the Big Ten Conference, and represent New Jersey. That talk of playing for a national championship can be real now in this conference and becomes more feasable with Guarantano in the fold. If he commits, other top players will follow and his team will be built. This recruiting class is deep and talented in New Jersey, one of the best states in the nation for high school football.
If he puts the hat on with the 'R' come Wednesday afternoon, he becomes the leader of Rutgers football not just for the next four years but perhaps for all time. His decision can set a course where others will see and follow.
Rutgers doesn't have the allure of Ohio State, what with their national championships and bigtime feel. It also doesn't have the crazy environment of the SEC that Tennessee can sell. But it can offer Guarantano the chance to play early on (only a blind man can't see that the depth chart is stacked at quarterback at both schools) and build a team with his buddies from around the state.
A team that will be playing for New Jersey, made up of kids from this state. Recruits who will follow Guarantano this year and next.
The Scarlet Knights have never really had this before, a Jersey kid at quarterback ready to commit in mid-April and be the outspoken leader of the team. There is something unique about a kid from Jersey that won't resonate in Columbus or Knoxville. We aren't cocky when we walk into a room looking to take on the world. It's just the way we are.
And that's what Guarantano can bring to Rutgers on Wednesday, the ability to lead like no player has ever done before. He would become the most influential player in program history if he dons the scarlet as his choice, without so much as a snap of college football.
The choice is his, to blaze a path with his own name or to follow the tradition laid out by others. Is he a leader of men? We will know the answer to this by mid-afternoon tomorrow.
He should call Kiy Hester sometime before Wednesday afternoon and talk with this former blue-chip for a few moments. Hester, like Guarantano, was a four-star recruit who left New Jersey last year to play at Miami. He was back within weeks, transferring into the program and likely to start this fall as a redshirt freshman. The bright lights aren't always brighter at those perceived elite programs.
And that's what Guarantano must turn down if he's to call Rutgers his home instead of Ohio State or Tennessee. He'd be called crazy by most if he chooses to become a Scarlet Knight.
It is worth something for this Jersey kid to consider. Yes, some will call a decision to stay in-state crazy but he also will be called a leader if he decides to stay.
Oh, and the pizza ain't so good in those other college towns either. That's also something for a Jersey kid to consider.