Family extends past football field for Rutgers on Thanksgiving Day
For the past three years, Kaiwan Lewis hasn't been able to experience Thanksgiving Day at his home.
Prior to his graduation and transfer from South Carolina to Rutgers earlier in the year, Lewis spent the final Thursday of every November eating dinner at his former Gamecocks teammates' houses in nearby areas surrounding the school's campus in Columbia.
But now, he gets to take the two-hour cruise down the Garden State Parkway south back to Pleasantville, where the senior middle linebacker reunites with his family.
And knowing the feeling of being away from home, he'll likely be bringing one or two of his family members from the Rutgers football team back with him.
"I know how it feels not to be able to go home," Lewis said. "I've seen people at South Carolina be able to go home to their families — and then I would actually spend it with a teammate's sometimes — so I'll probably take a couple of my teammates back with me to my house."
Lewis won't be the only one to do so.
Before he and the Scarlet Knights (4-7, 1-6) return to the gridiron for their noon kickoff against Maryland (2-9, 0-7) for Senior Day on Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium, coaches and players alike look forward to taking a brief break out of their week to enjoy the holiday as the 2015 regular season finale lingers over the weekend.
But as much as Rutgers is known for its Jersey roots with in-state players up and down the roster, there just as many who won't be able to enjoy the luxury of the same home-cooked meal they might have grown accustomed to over the years because of the lack of proximity to Piscataway.
That left Kyle Flood to sacrifice his own plans of heading up to New York at his mother-in-law's house. Instead, the fourth-year head coach will be with his football team — sharing the same family bond.
Flood mentioned how the team devised a system to pair up players with teammates and coaches so everyone had somewhere to go for Thanksgiving.
But for anyone that's left, Flood will be right there with them.
"My plans are to be here with the football team — and that's where I'm gonna be," he said.
The Knights have an early practice Thursday morning. From there, players and coaches break off for Thanksgiving festivities over the course of the day all around the tri-state area before heading back to the Banks to continue their game prep for the regular season finale two days from now.
Chris Muller might be the best example to pick from.
The junior right guard, who slid over to center in last week's win at Army and may have to remain there with junior starting center Derrick Nelson (upper body) still questionable, has a lot on his plate as far as preparation for Saturday is concerned.
But Muller, who is set to bring up to six teammates back home with him to Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, is looks forward to reuniting with his family — on top of bringing some extended members from the locker room into the dining room.
"I'm going home and I'm bringing some of my teammates — a few guys on the offensive line and then (sophomore quarterback) Hayden Rettig, and I'm also bringing back (senior punter) Tim Gleeson," he said. "It's just nice. Guys that aren't able to drive home for the day, they get back and a well-cooked meal. You have a nice, relaxed family feel."
It's all a general practice that Darius Hamilton has seen — and helped participate in — since he came to Rutgers four years ago.
Every year, the senior defensive tackle brings his roommate, Nelson, back with him up to New York where he spends Thanksgiving with his own family.
But as Hamilton puts it, Nelson is just as much a member of the household as he is in the locker room.
"We definitely come together ... It's great, we have a great time and he's my family. You know what I'm saying? He's my family. They treat him no differently," Hamilton said of Nelson. "He's a part of the family and I know a lot of the other players do that ... They'll pair up with somebody who's close and relatively close around here and they'll go home and it's a family here, man, you know what I'm saying? We take care of each other."
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