PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — One can point to a number of reasons why No. 19 Rutgers is unbeaten midway through its season, but linebacker Khaseem Greene's decision to forgo the NFL Draft is chief among them.
After leading the Big East in tackles and earning a share of the conference's player of the year award, Greene announced he was returning to Rutgers for a fifth-year campaign four days before the Scarlet Knights' Pinstripe Bowl triumph over Iowa State last December.
It's been a good move.
While the Scarlet Knights (6-0, 3-0 Big East), who travel to Philadelphia to renew a rivalry with Temple (3-2, 2-0) on Saturday, underwent a massive transformation this offseason as Greg Schiano abruptly left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kyle Flood took coaching reins at Rutgers, Greene's leadership has been credited for keeping everything together.
"I wasn't going to let any of that take away from what we needed to get accomplished," Greene said. "I knew we were too good to take a step back this year."
The same can be said about Greene, who has picked up where left off in lifting Rutgers to its best start since 2006. The Scarlet Knights can improve to 7-0 for the second time in six seasons — and just the fifth time since being credited with playing the first college football game 143 years ago — Saturday against the improved Owls at Lincoln Financial Field.
"A lot of things went into that decision," said Greene, who recorded 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception in Rutgers' 23-15 win over Syracuse last Saturday. "This place has been home for me for the last five years, and leaving would've felt like leaving my family's house. And it was also because of how we finished last season, knowing we had unfinished business and then realizing what type of team we had coming back.
"I'm definitely glad that I stayed."
The opportunity to earn money playing professionally was intriguing for Greene, who grew up in a tough section of Elizabeth, N.J. With his father, Raymond, having spent most of his life in and out of jail, Greene credits his mother, Arnessa, for his mentoring and making the right decisions.
"It was tough turning down the money, but my mom said something that stuck with me," said Greene, whose father was recently released on parole and attended his first Rutgers game when the Scarlet Knights defeated Connecticut, 19-3, earlier this month. "My mom said 12 months or however long it takes for me to get paid is not going to hurt us any more than it has for the 22 years of my life. It's always been rough for us growing up, so if the money happens it's going to happen regardless."
Another year of academics won't hurt, either.