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Defensive tackle provides durability with RU

Senior of The Year

<p>Former Rutgers defensive tackle Scott Valone had 52 tackles last season with three sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.</p>

Former Rutgers defensive tackle Scott Valone had 52 tackles last season with three sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.

A baby-faced, undersized Scott Vallone knew he was supposed to make an early impact when his former head coach showed up to St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) High School in a helicopter.

But a foot injury only four days after National Signing Day originally derailed that chance.

“I was worried at first,” said Vallone, a former defensive tackle on the Rutgers football team. “I didn’t even want to tell the coaches at first because I didn’t want to lose my scholarship or for them to think less of me. You forget you use your foot on every step you take.”

After redshirting in 2008, The Daily Targum’s Senior of the Year started every game since, the most in the country during the last four-year span. Vallone recorded 52 tackles last season, including 12.5 for a loss and three sacks — both career highs.

He did so despite switching midseason to nose tackle, which regularly brought double teams from opposing offensive linemen.

“It was a little frustrating when [defensive tackle Isaac Holmes] got hurt this year, when I could be a penetrator and capitalize on one-on-one opportunities,” Vallone said. “That kind of hurt. But I also looked at in a positive way.”

Vallone credits a renewed offseason conditioning program to his success in 2012, and the results showed. He remembers a 16-play stretch Nov. 10 against Army in which he did not take a play off.

But Vallone could not plan for what would happen in the trenches, often the most violent place on the field.

“There was never a time I doubted whether I could play,” he said. “There was maybe a game I got hurt in the previous game, and the day after the game I said, ‘Am I going to be able to come back?’ Swelling takes effect and you’re playing on adrenaline.”

Vallone suffered a leg injury during a 2011 spring practice scrimmage and did not return. He played through the 2011 season with a lingering shoulder problem before undergoing offseason surgery.

But when his foot injury resurfaced after two games in 2008, he was forced to take a medical redshirt.

“As young men, you’re not used to playing in so many consecutive games,” said former Scarlet Knights linebacker Khaseem Greene. “For him to sustain his body, it speaks about his character and toughness. I’m very proud to say I played with a guy like Scott Vallone. My hat goes off to him.”

Before earning All-Big East First Team honors as a senior, Vallone went largely underappreciated outside of Piscataway. He recorded a career-high 58 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2011, but the conference never called.

He did not run the 40-yard dash at the team’s Pro Day on March 13, when others like Greene captured scouts’ attention. Vallone said that day he hoped NFL scouts would review his game film instead.

Head coach Kyle Flood has plenty of it stored in the team’s Hale Center training facility.

“It’s almost impossible to predict that a nose guard could start that many games,” Flood said. “It’s an amazing credit to how tough he is.”

Flood recruited him out of Vallone’s native Long Island, where Flood once served as offensive line coach at C.W. Post and Hofstra. Before former head coach Greg Schiano gave Vallone his pitch, Rutgers had rarely appeared on Vallone’s radar.

“I didn’t even know who Rutgers was until they played Arizona State [in the 2005 Insight Bowl],” Vallone said. “They were talking about Tres Moses in the pregame. I was like, ‘Who’s Rutgers?’ I didn’t even know who it was.”

Vallone has grown into a 6-foot-3, 275-pound frame since then, but not before playing with at least eight different defensive tackles in a Knights uniform. Not even Rutgers’ most decorated defensive player could have anticipated it.

“From the looks of it, no,” Greene said of expecting Vallone to start 51 games as a freshmen. “From the first time I got on the field with him, I knew he was intense. He just didn’t take anything for granted. He wanted to prove he could play.”

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