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Rutgers holds ceremony to officially open Marco Battaglia Practice Complex

Rutgers Athletics completed another phase of the “R Big Ten Build” campaign Sunday when it unveiled the Marco Battaglia Practice Complex, an upgraded practice facility dedicated to the former first-team All-American tight end.

Featuring two new grass fields, an LED lighting system and updated drainage and irrigation systems, the complex sports its functional renovations as much as its cosmetic ones. The facility also includes fresh fencing, a new entranceway and updated landscaping to accompany the video board, two scoreboards and six game clocks that round out the complex.

The namesake of the practice complex, Battaglia, who deemed the facility “best in class,” addressed the Rutgers football team in attendance Sunday, challenging them to seek out the accomplishments that eventually led to Battaglia to this day.

“Recognize the journey to success because it will not be an easy one,” he said. “When you are out there working and it feels like you’re at your breaking point, understanding you’re only halfway there. I challenge you to bear down and grind it out because the top is beautiful.”

Battaglia finished his career as a Scarlet Knight leading the program in reception yards (2,221), receptions (171), touchdowns (16) and 100-yard games (seven), records he still holds to this day.

A relic of Rutgers’ Big East days, Battaglia received the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year accolades as a senior captain.

Following his last days as a Knight, Battaglia was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1996 and went on to spend eight seasons in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002.

But the sole feat recognized Sunday was that of the Rutgers community as part of the “R Big Ten Build” fundraising initiative, which surpassed $81,000 raised over the weekend, comprised of over 2,500 individual donors.

The campaign, launched in January 2016, was established “to raise $100 million for new or upgraded athletic facilities.” Now over 80 percent toward its monetary goal, the “R Big Ten Build” is now two-thirds through Phase I of its initiative. The plan was officially ushered in when Rutgers Athletics broke ground on the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center in November 2016 and will commence once the Lacrosse and Soccer Training Complex is completed.

With the Marco Battaglia Practice Complex finished in only five months, head coach Chris Ash harkened to an apt quote from a movie about a different sport, Field of Dreams.

Ash echoed the film in saying, “If you build it, they will come.”

As Phase I of the “R Big Ten Build” nears completion, it bears to wonder whether the mantra will ring true in reference to Rutgers.

Even so, Battaglia’s ambassadorship and appeal may be the “it” Rutgers is looking for. It is his humility, work ethic and passion for Knights football that carried his name from a Super Bowl ring to the brick wall lining the Marco Battaglia Practice Complex.

“I was a kid from Queens who loved football and knew that starting from the back of the line was not where I wanted to end,” Battaglia said. “The front of the line was the only thing that I would accept.”

For updates on the Rutgers Football team, follow @TargumSports and @jon_spilletti on Twitter

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