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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nebraska's recruiting ties to New Jersey run deep with two southern sons

Nebraska's Irving Fryar, a Mount Holly 
native. (AP photo)
By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

A question posed to Nebraska coach Bo Pelini during Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference puzzled me, and also got me to thinking.

"Coach, does Nebraska really extend its recruiting footprint now that a Big Ten team (Rutgers) is in that region of the country?"

Pelini's response was predictable. After all, Nebraska and many midwest schools had been mining New Jersey's top talent for decades, especially in my native South Jersey.

"We've always been a pretty national recruiting program by just sheer population and where we stand in the country," Pelini said. "We've always kind of gone over into New Jersey some. The Big Ten expanding and reaching out into other areas ... that just increases our exposure into these areas where, yes, we've been in. I just hope it increases our success rate as time goes on."

Two of Nebraska's historically big signings — Camden's Mike Rozier and Mount Holly's Irving Fryar in the early 1980s — literally hit close to home.

Nicknamed the Jersey Jets, Rozier and Fryar were part of an age of players that helped accentuate the Midwest's rise to power nationally while their in-state school, Rutgers, hadn't yet prioritized big-time college football.

Rozier, of course, won the Heisman Trophy in 1983. Fryar, who graduated from Rancocas Valley, my alma mater, went No. 1 overall in the same year's NFL Draft.

But the same fortune didn't follow them for long. 

Rozier, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound in his native Camden in 1996. Fryar is now knee deep in a trial set for early February over alleged bank fraud that tied in his mother, Allene McGhee.

Once a head coach at Robbinsville High, Fryar rejected a plea deal a week ago.

While times have certainly changed for two of New Jersey's iconic high school athletes, the string of Big Ten success in the Mid-Atlantic lingers.

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