- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
Piscataway (N.J.) athlete, Nadir Barnwell was thinking about making a decision for the last few weeks. On Tuesday, the ESPN 300 athlete felt it was finally time to make a decision, and he picked the program that has been there since the beginning.
Barnwell, the No. 9 prospect in New Jersey and No. 225 nationally, committed to Rutgers, which is no more than 10 minutes from Piscataway High School.
“The recruiting process has run its course with him and the beginning was exciting to have so many offers and attention,” Piscataway coach Dan Higgins said, “but now he’s to the point he wanted to finish and get that out of the way so he can focus on his senior year.”
A quarterback at Piscataway but a projected cornerback at Rutgers, Barnwell helped lead the Chiefs to state championships the past two seasons. Barnwell has yet to play in 2012, though.
During a scrimmage in late August, Barnwell suffered a separated shoulder and was only cleared for contact this week. He will play in a limited role Friday but is not expected to be on the field full time again until after the Sept. 28 bye week.
Higgins believes the injury helped Barnwell make the decision.
“I think the injury, it crystallized the whole process,” Higgins said. “He realized how valuable the time was and I think he knew what he was doing, and I’m comfortable with his reason and I think it’s a great fit.”
In previous interviews, the four-star Barnwell expressed how Rutgers already felt like home and would present only a small change in his life. The proximity and familiarity with the program was the biggest reason he committed to the in-state Scarlet Knights.
Barnwell has a younger brother, and Barnwell expressed a desire to watch his brother grow up and play on the same high school field he did down the line. Playing at Rutgers also means his parents can see him play several times a year.
It also helped that much of the Rutgers staff stayed in place following Greg Schiano’s departure in January. Robb Smith is the Knights’ defensive coordinator and secondary coach, and he recruited Barnwell even while he served as special teams coach in 2011.
“He likes Coach Smith. He’s very comfortable with him and that had a lot to do with it,” Higgins said. “Coach [Kyle] Flood is easy to like. Nadir likes him.
A public powerhouse, Piscataway has had three first-round picks over the last decade. Anthony Davis of the 49ers was a former Piscataway and Rutgers star, and NFL defensive backs Malcolm Jenkins (Saints) and Kyle Wilson (Jets) both came through Piscataway.
Marvin Booker and Jawuan Wynn are Piscataway graduates currently on Rutgers’ roster.
“He knows a lot of the players on the team, and the history with Piscataway football and the affiliation we have (with Rutgers). There’s a comfort level,” Higgins said.