Absegami High School star running back Ben Martin verbally committed to Rutgers University for the 2011 season Monday.

The Scarlet Knights made an offer to Martin back in January and the senior-to-be knew exactly what he wanted to do.

"Rutgers was my No. 1 choice," Martin said.

Martin, who rushed for 1,216 yards on 185 carries last season, was looking for a combination - great coaching staff and academics.

"Coach Greg Schiano is the best coach ever and he makes me feel at home," Martin said.

Off the field, Rutgers is ranked No. 1 in the Academic Progress Report (APR), the only state university to finish in the top 10.

The NCAA uses the APR to measure the success or failure of Division I football and basketball teams in moving student-athletes toward graduation

"They are ahead of Duke and other schools,

 

and that's saying a lot," Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said. "One thing I know about Rutgers is there is tremendous academic support and he could really strive there."

The first time Martin met Schiano was when the coach flew to the Galloway Township school in his helicopter back in January. One of the things Schiano was able to do was offer academic support.

"I thought it was an honor for him to bring his helicopter to the school and show how much he wanted me," Martin said.

"I'm very big on first impressions and it was the first time we talked face to face. He told me to, 'Keep it up in the classroom and everything should fall into place.' "

Martin, a 2009 Press of Atlantic City second-team All-Star, also considered West Virgina and Maryland. Marshall also offered Martin a formal invitation.

Martin cannot sign a letter of intent until Feb. 2, 2011, but he said his recruitment is over.

"I wanted to stay close to home, and I think this is it for me," Martin said. "My mind is made up."

At Rutgers' summer camp last month, the 5-10, 190-pound running back ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, proving his athletic ability to the coaching staff.

"He's phenomenal. His best football is still ahead," Scuderi said. "He'll continue to get better as he goes and we're thankful we'll get him for one more year."

"Anytime an individual receives a full scholarship at a major university as prestigous as Rutgers, it's obviously great for the program," said Scuderi, a former Rutgers assistant coach. "I feel comfortable with him going there. I know the people there and what they're offering him athletically and academically is outstanding."

Martin is the third running back in Rutgers' 2011 recruiting class, joining Charles Davis of Neptune and Floridian Chevelle Buie. However, Martin sees it as an opportunity.

"I think I have a great chance to come out and compete for the starting job on the field," Martin said. "Competition brings the best out of you and I'm a competitor. I just want to play."

One of the things that the 17-year-old from Pleasantville is looking forward to the most is playing excellent football at a major institution.

"Just the tradition that they bring is great and hopefully I'll be one of the greats, like Ray Rice, who is the best running back to come out of Rutgers."

Contact Nyssa Dougherty:

609-272-7210