Page taps into potential in first contest
For Al Page, Saturday’s game against Norfolk State was a series of emotions the sophomore defensive tackle had a hard time controlling.
Seeing the first game action of his career, Page blew up the Spartan offensive line for 1.5 sacks. He also crossed the line of scrimmage twice before the quarterback hiked the ball — penalties which Page blamed a result of too much excitement.
That did not stop him from pointing out the positives he saw when he jumped offsides.
“I was so excited. In my head I was like, ‘Snap the ball, snap the ball, I want to get this thing going,’” Page said. “Then I jumped offside. It was kind of funny because after that play, I kind of dug into the center really well and the center was tapping the guard and telling him, ‘Help me, help me.’ I’m blessed.”
Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood knows all about Page’s athletic gifts, as he recruited him out of Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx when he was the Scarlet Knights offensive line coach.
Page is currently listed at 6-foot-2, 280 pounds. Sitting in the Hale Center in just shorts and a t-shirt, one can mistake his arms for solid rock.
But Flood is also aware of the work that still needs to be done with Page when it comes to controlling his enthusiasm.
“Well, I think Al at times did a good job for us in that game, but he also realized it’s not as easy as lining up, and there’s a lot that goes into playing major college football,” Flood said. “Al is going to play a lot of football for us, and I think he took a step in the right direction, despite the penalties.”
As a result of injuries and suspensions, Page was listed in the Knights two-deep. Now that junior defensive tackle Kenneth Kirskey is listed as a backup at the position, it remains unseen if Page will continue the kind of playing time he received against the Spartans.
But in the time he received, Page impressed, despite the mental errors.
In less than half of the work, Page recorded 1.5 sacks, including a takedown of Norfolk State’s quarterback Tyler Clark for a 2-yard loss. Page also teamed up with redshirt freshman defensive back Davon Jacobs on the same drive, which resulted in an 8-yard loss.
It was all a surreal moment for the Bronx native, as injuries plagued his first two years in Piscataway.
“Coming off the bench and not just playing but having an impact … but to have that much of an impact and in so little time, those are stats you get throughout an entire game,” Page said. “I got that within a quarter and a half. It truly is awesome.”
senior defensive tackle Ike Holmes was truly impressed with Page’s effort, saying he could see Page’s enthusiasm from where he stood on the sideline.
“Al is really passionate about practice and about playing,” Holmes said. “He loves the game and he was really waiting for his opportunity to get out there and show how much he loves the game. That might have gotten a little bit of the best of him at some points, but I think Al is going to be a really good player in the long run.”
Including this season, Page has three years of eligibility left to corral his potential.
Right now he cannot help but look back to Saturday to see what he’s capable of.
“It felt so good. It was amazing,” Page said. “I had butterflies and I was nervous. … It’s something that can make me tear up. I’ve waited two years, and I don’t care if [it came in the second half].”
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