Freshman running back impresses coaching staff, teammates with work ethic
Trey Sneed arrived at Rutgers as an early-enrollee member of the Rutgers football team in January, joining the team for some of the most brutal winter workouts the current members of the roster could remember.
But it wasn’t until three months later, during the 10th practice of the spring, that the running back received his first taste of the big difference between high school and college football.
“We were doing a roll out, so I had to go out as a lead blocker for the quarterback and (senior linebacker) Greg Jones, he came and I mean, I was ready, I was setting my feet for it, but he came a lot harder than I thought he was,” Sneed said. “He put me on my butt, so I’d say that was my welcome-to-college-football moment. I definitely had to dap ‘em up and embrace him for that.”
Sneed congratulated his teammate following the hit to show respect, something he’s earned early on in his career on the Banks through his work ethic.
Head coach Chris Ash brought the tradition of the black stripe on his players’ helmets to Rutgers from Ohio State. Every player begins the preseason with a black stripe on their head, and once they’re “game-ready,” they have the stripe removed and are “knighted.”
Eight Knights have received the honor as of practice number 11. Sneed was the only underclassman to be distinguished, having his stripe removed before any other running back, including senior Justin Goodwin and juniors Robert Martin and Josh Hicks.
The decision turned heads when it surfaced, but Ash believes Sneed earned it through the dedication he’s shown in his three months on campus.
Seeing an opportunity to reinforce the characteristics he looks for in his players, the first-year head coach seized it.
“It was the head coach’s decision,” Ash said. “And everyone looked at me and was kind of scratching their head like, ‘What are you doing?’ Every time I watch that kid in the weight room, in the offseason drills and in practice, it’s been 100 miles per hour. And he’s shown that he is extremely tough and coachable. And it’s that way every single day.”
Sneed was as surprised as everyone else at hearing his name heard at the end of the eighth practice of the spring. He said he came in trying to “emulate the vets” of the team, and his effort was noticed.
“It was crazy. It definitely was crazy. I wasn’t expecting it at all,” he said. “I didn’t know coach Ash was looking at me the way he was and that’s just an honor. Just an honor to get your hard work recognized.”
Along with impressing his head coach, Sneed made a positive impression on his position coach with his effort.
“One of the hardest working players on the team. He’s earning everything he’s getting,” said running backs coach Zak Kuhr. “You could tell he’s coming straight out of high school because he’s a little unpolished and a little raw, but he’s working his butt off … His legs go. His feet don’t stop.”
The Orange Park, Florida, native was able to impress his coaches despite still adjusting to the lifestyle of the northeast after coming from the Sunshine State without a transition period between high school and college.
Having played the spread at Fleming Island High School, the playbook isn’t anything new to Sneed. The big difference, he said, is the speed of play.
“When I first got here, it was crazy,” he said. “When you have a feel for high school football, it seems like everything’s slowed down. (In college), it’s the same looks, the holes are the same, they just close a lot faster, so you have to move a lot faster, you have to run a lot harder, so the more reps I get, the more it slows down for me.”
Despite being the first running back to have his stripe removed, the reality for Sneed is there are three elder players in his position ahead of him on the depth chart. The freshman said he was open to playing in special teams, an area he said Ash “puts a big emphasis in.”
The most important thing for Sneed isn’t how many snaps he’ll play in the fall. Instead, his biggest worry is picking up as much information as he can to improve, another example of why he was knighted.
“I just wanna be a sponge,” Sneed said. “I wanted to come in, I wanted to take every coaching tip, I wanna learn as much as I can to be prepared so when my number is called, I can be as ready as I can be.”