Rutgers names team captains filled with experience
Rutgers head football coach Chris Ash was asked what he was looking for in his team captains during his press conference at the team’s media day on August 14.
“I'm looking for new guys that will lead the team, guys that the others will look up to. I want captains that will be out on the field playing because, if you've got captains that are on the sideline or injured, it's tough for them to lead,” he said. “It's tough for others to follow them when they're not out there. So I want them to be some of our better players. I want them to live their life right away from here, socially the right way. I want to make sure they're good students.”
Ash wasn’t in charge of making the choice — as per tradition, the captains were selected by their peers on the team — but he’ll likely have little to disagree with in the choices his players made.
Fifth-year seniors Darius Hamilton, Chris Muller, Julian Pinnix-Odrick and Derrick Nelson were named team captains Wednesday. All four play on either side of the line of scrimmage, the area of the field Ash has constantly emphasized as key and where the two units that he’s praised the most during the offseason can be found.
Hamilton and Pinnix-Odrick play on a defensive line Ash has said is the strength of the team on multiple occasions.
The nomination makes Hamilton the first three-time captain in program history. The Don Bosco Prep product was a captain each of the past two seasons, though he missed 11 of 12 games last season with a knee injury he’s still not 100 percent recovered from.
“It means a lot to me that guys look at me a certain way and feel a certain way about me and feel like I go out there and get the job done when my number is called,” Hamilton said a week prior to completing the three-peat of captaincy.
Pinnix-Odrick earned the title for the first time but he’s been a reference for his peers for most of the offseason.
The Montclair, New Jersey, native’s approach to leadership is one of example. He won’t be found hovering over the shoulder of his teammates to keep them in line, but he’ll help whenever he’s needed.
“To a point, we’re all grown men and (taking care of yourself) is part of growing up. You have to be trusted to do what you’re supposed to do,” Pinnix-Odrick said. “My approach is more, ‘I’m not anybody’s father out here. I’m gonna trust you to do what you have to do. And if you don’t and you don’t understand it, I’m gonna help you with that.”
Muller and Nelson join Pinnix-Odrick as first time captains, though they play on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage on an offensive line returning four starters from last season.
Nelson is entering his second season as a starter at center, while Muller is attempting to complete a full four years of eligibility without missing a single game after suffering his first setback this offseason.
After partaking in all 38 games he’s been available for and starting in 37 straight since he earned his first start as a redshirt freshman, Muller sustained a foot injury that kept him out of spring camp.
Returning to action in training camp, the Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, native isn’t worried about continuing the impressive streak he’s accumulated. The most important thing to him seeing the team progress in his final season.
“My goals are team goals,” he said. “I just want this team to be as best as it can be and flourish the way I know it can.”
Muller and his fellow captains will have one final year to help push the program in the right direction as Ash and his coaching staff look to build the program from the ground up.
With his career winding down, he — and those who will join him for the coin toss before every game this season — is looking forward to his final year on the Banks.
“It’s been a hell of a ride, it’s been a long time,” Muller said, reflecting on the four years he’s been at Rutgers. “Still got one ride around to go though.”