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Why Isaih Pacheco chose Rutgers over Iowa

Sophomore running back Isaih Pacheco will look to continue his Heisman campaign on the road this week as the Rutgers football team travels to Iowa City, Iowa to take on No. 20 Iowa in its first conference action of the season. 

Pacheco goes into the week two matchup against the Hawkeyes (1-0) as the nation's Division 1 leader in rushing touchdowns, with a chance to prove he can replicate his week-one dominance against quality opposition for the Knights (1-0). The Iowa defense, led by head coach Kirk Ferentz, gave up only 59 rushing yards in week one against Miami, and will look to contain a running back that may have been a teammate in another timeline. 

"Both of (Rutgers') backs are really good players. ... That No. 1 (Isaih Pacheco) he runs like he's mad at somebody,'' Ferentz said, according to the Quad-City Times

For Ferentz, the power running sophomore and former star high school quarterback, is one that got away during Pacheco's recruiting process. Ferentz engaged in conversations with Pacheco while he was still in high school about coming to play at Iowa. He was the only other Big Ten coach besides Rutgers head coach Chris Ash that made an effort to recruit Pacheco out of high school. 

Ultimately, Pacheco decided to stay home and play for the Knights in Piscataway, 96 miles from his town of Vineland, New Jersey.

"It was something I always wanted to do since I was a little kid," Pacheco said of playing at Rutgers. "Represent Jersey, I represented Jersey when I was back at home, represented my hometown and I represent my home state. I got it tatted on me. It's in my blood, runs in my blood … I'm a Scarlet Knight and we're going to battle it out."

Playing in his home state gives Pacheco the chance to play in front of the friends and family that watched him lead Vineland high school to its first pair of back-to-back winning seasons in more than two decades. 

Last season, after Pacheco scored his first-collegiate touchdown on an 80-yard run, he blew a pair of kisses to his mother in the stands. 

“I looked up and saw my mom and I blew her two kisses,’’ Pacheco said, according to NJ Advance Media. “My dad after the game asked, ‘Who were you blowing kisses to?’ And my mom was like, ‘He was blowing kisses to me!’ And I said, ‘That’s crazy, ma, because I really was.’ She’s been through so much. I told her that touchdown was for her.’’

It's a ritual that has become routine for Pacheco and one that he would not have, had he chosen to play for Ferentz in the Midwest. 

Conversely, Ash will be returning home for Rutgers' road trip. An Ottumwa, Iowa, native, Ash grew up a Hawkeyes fan. 

"It's what they call Hawkeye country and my whole family grew up as Iowa fans," Ash said.

Ash grew up 96 miles away from Iowa City, the same distance between Vineland and Piscataway. 

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