I started writing about Jackson Donne in a creative writing class my sophomore year of college. I needed a setting and the college town of New Brunswick, New Jersey seemed perfect.
There wasn’t much in terms of college pride at Rutgers back then. The basketball team was floundering (an NIT team, but they haven’t made he NCAAs since 1991), and the football team struggled through a 5-6 season after an 0-11 season my freshman year.
I went to one game in the 0-11 year. RU was down 28-0 to Michael Vick at halftime. They never recovered.
Rutgers football won a total of nine games in the four years I was there. No one cared. Half the students didn’t even know we had a football team.
As I was about to graduate, the school hired a man named Greg Schiano. He came in and talked about recruiting, rebuilding, and National Championships.
They lost to West Virginia 80-7 the next year. The team had no identity. I wasn’t on campus, but I’m sure the tenor was the same, no one cared.
But I did, I paid attention. There was something about Schiano, the man had passion, he had energy and he was confident. Things were going to change he kept saying. And while my college roommate and I laughed when we talked about it, something was different in our laughter. It was laughter about our current situation, but not about the hopelessness of it.
I don’t know what it’s like being a fan of Ohio State. I don’t know what it’s like being a fan of Duke. I don’t know what it’s like being an alumni of a school where success is inherent.
But I do know that rooting for the college you attended is different than rooting for a pro sports team. You are a part of that team, you are a part of that school. Rooting for a pro sports team has a built in distance to it. But college? That’s YOUR college. You were there. You supported them. You went there and suffered through the losing. You pretended the team didn’t exist.
I had season tickets when Rutgers lost to a Division I-AA team. I suffered through losses that should have never happened.
Last year Rutgers had their first winning season in over ten years and went to a bowl. I was excited.
And then things started to turn. Going into last night, Rutgers was 8-0. The number 3 team in the country was coming to town. I had already seen them win live once this year and I was going to the Syracuse game later in the year. I tried to get tickets for last night and the game sold out.
So I scalped. The night before I scalped. I had to be at this game.
If you’re living under a rock this morning, Rutgers… the institution I attended, where Jackson Donne works, a team that played in the first football game ever and then ddin’t win since…. RUTGERS THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY recorded it’s biggest win ever, defeating Louisville 28-25 on a last minute field goal.
I have no voice today. I have no energy today.
But I’m smiling.
Because I’m a part of this, and last night may have been the most exciting spectacle I’ve witnessed.
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