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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rutgers' Steve Longa learns from Hyatt hotel gaffe

Steve Longa's philosophy shift came after several blunders during a defensive meeting before a 2012 home game. (Tyler Barto)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

Steve Longa spent the early part of the 2012 season in a trance.

Longa, eventually destined to redshirt, peered ahead and saw four more years of eligibility remaining. So when veteran Steve Beauharnais told him to enjoy every moment, Longa brushed it off.

But that changed one night at a local Hyatt as Rutgers' defensive personnel prepared for an early season opponent.

"I remember we had a home game and I missed a couple calls and I really got on myself," Longa said. "I was very mad, and I decided that would never happen again."

Rutgers began installation Wednesday for its 2013 season opener at Fresno State. Defensive coordinator Dave Cohen has given the reins of the defense to Longa, who is now responsible for making and relaying calls.

Fresno's Derek Carr, one of three returning 4,000-yard passers in Division I, will test Longa's growth.

A Hyatt bedroom signaled the change.

"I remember Khaseem (Greene) telling me, 'Little bro, it's going to happen. You can't beat yourself up.' I'm like, 'I don't know what to do.' I was so down on myself," said Longa, who now claims he could be the fastest middle linebacker in the American. "I remember him telling me, 'You're going to get it. Wait until the spring comes. Everything is going to slow down for you.' And it did."

MORE: Rutgers players look back at training camps past

Longa moved from the weakside spot in spring practice to the MIKE, when a phone call from Rutgers' staff replaced early anxiety. The redshirt freshman has never been responsible for reading defenses and relaying signals — not even in high school.

"He's going to be a great player, whether it's next week, two weeks from now, a month from now, next season," Cohen says of Longa.

Cohen pauses.

"He's not going to be Steve Beauharnais the first game, though. That was a work of art for four years."

It is one of many transitions that usher in the 2013 season.

"That was a change for me," Longa said. "I started enjoying every minute and every second. I feel like I'm old now."

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