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Sophomore tight end grows into position for Rutgers

<p>After earning a scholarship in the off-season, former walk-on Matt Flanagan has shown flashes of promise at a wide-open position.</p>

After earning a scholarship in the off-season, former walk-on Matt Flanagan has shown flashes of promise at a wide-open position.

With senior wide receiver Leonte Carroo collecting three touchdowns on three catches, a quarterback controversy coming to a close and an explosion of offense from the Rutgers football team in a 63-13 win over Norfolk State, it’s easy to forget about who scored the first touchdown for the Scarlet Knights.

The Knight who might be one of the biggest mysteries to anyone other than someone on Rutgers coaching staff and players.

But the guy who ran a 10-yard slide route for a 13-yard touchdown to even the score 7-7 in the first quarter might not go unnoticed any longer.

It’s already been a season of firsts for sophomore tight end Matt Flanagan in the early parts of the football season.

After earning his first-career start last weekend against Norfolk State, Flanagan made the most of his opportunity scoring his first-career touchdown roughly six minutes into the game. This all comes after the walk-on earned a scholarship this past offseason.

For head coach Kyle Flood, all of the lists of first that Flanagan accomplished are a testament to his hard work to improve his craft meeting the opportunity in the game.

“With the tight ends, I think everyone always notices the catches and touchdowns, which is exciting for him and his family,” Flood said. “But he’s become a more consistent blocker — that’s the most important thing. When you get those tight ends, if they are not effective enough at blocking, then all they are is slow receivers. That’s not what anyone is looking for. We need them to be complete players and I think he’s done that.”

For Flanagan, starting his first game was something he prepared a long time for.

Last season, with former Knight Tyler Kroft cemented as the starter, Flanagan picked up a great deal of knowledge as one of the primary backups and in preparation for the game. Now, with Kroft gone, Flanagan thinks the nervous feeling has subsided a little.

“It was fun getting my first start,” Flanagan said. “I’ve had to know what the starting tight end does in all our preparation and all throughout last year. Now, it’s kind of you getting ready for the starting tight end role — and that’s who you are going to be when you are going out on Saturdays.”

While Flanagan earned the start at tight end, junior Nick Arcidiacono assured that there never is any animosity between any of the tight ends. He knows how close they are in the tight end room and how they all compete.

Even if one Knight starts, Arcidiacono said that everyone earns a chance to help the team in different formations and whatever game situation presents itself.

“We’re real close,” Arcidiacono said. “We are all similar players and I know we are all out here working hard. We have a couple guys in the tight end room that can come out here and get the job done. We are a really strong group. We push each other and help each other out. We are all kind of interchangeable and in the mix at all times.”

The sincere emotion Arcidiacono showed when talking about how excited he was for Flanagan scoring his first career touchdown further proves the relationship the position group shares.

“I was so pumped when Flan got his first touchdown — I was going nuts,” Arcidiacono beamed. “It was awesome and I was real happy for him.”

No matter what happens this weekend against Washington State, Flanagan said he’s prepared for whatever role Flood and the coaching staff has to give him.

But, there is one thing he is unsure about. Flanagan doesn’t know how to top the first week of the season.

“Things have been going pretty well for me so far,” Flanagan said with a smile. “We’ll just have to see what happens this weekend.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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