Nadir Barnwell will continue the Piscataway High School football team’s pipeline to Rutgers University.
The highly touted senior quarterback and defensive back, who received more than two dozen firm scholarship offers from major BCS programs, made a nonbinding verbal commitment to become a Scarlet Knight on Tuesday night.
“It’s just a weight off my shoulders. It’s a weight off of everybody’s shoulders,” Barnwell said. “It’s really just a blessing to be a Scarlet Knight. It’s been a long time coming.”
Barnwell’s high school coach at Piscataway, Dan Higgins, said, “It’s special because we are really proud of Piscataway football and just as proud of New Jersey football, and when people stay home, we are able to play our brand of football right in our backyard, and that’s a pretty exciting thing for Piscataway High School.”
Barnwell’s final short list of schools, according to Higgins, included Tennessee, Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan State. Higgins said Penn State was in the mix “until the (NCAA) sanctions hit.”
“He did like the Big Ten schools,” Higgins said, “but basically he wanted to stay home. That’s what it comes down to. Rutgers is a good fit for him.”
Higgins said the Rutgers coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Robb Smith, plans to use Barnwell as a cornerback.
“Nadir is a rare breed, one of those defensive backs that can play physical man-to-man,” Higgins said. “Coach Smith likes to bring some pressure. I know he likes those corners to cover man-to-man, and Nadir is that kind of guy.”
Smith’s promotion to defensive coordinator, shortly after the hiring of head coach Kyle Flood as Greg Schiano’s successor, factored heavily in Barnwell’s decision.
“That was big for me,” Barnwell said. “He’s such a great coach. He was with me since before when he was just an assistant and he’s great. It’s really going to be an honor playing for him and learning about defense.”
Barnwell will become the seventh Chief to play for Rutgers since 2003.
Over the past nine years, 34 Piscataway players have gone on to play in college. Four of those Chiefs went on to play in the NFL.
“We are extremely proud,” Higgins said. “It’s been a great relationship between the two programs and I think the Piscataway-to-Rutgers connection has definitely influenced Nadir to play there.”
Higgins said the non-throwing (right) shoulder which Barnwell separated during a scrimmage against Don Bosco Prep is healing well and that the injury did not dissuade recruiters.
Barnwell, who has led the Chiefs to back-to-back North 2 Group IV championships, is expected to return to the field next month. Piscataway is off to a 1-1 start in his absence.
As a quarterback, he ranks among the top five all-time at Piscataway in a host of career passing categories including completions (204), yards (2,326) and touchdowns (26).
“Nadir is an elite athlete,” said Brian Dohn, northeast recruiting analyst for Scout.com. “If he was two or three inches taller, the way he plays quarterback, everybody would be comparing him to Michael Vick (another left-handed passer).
“Unfortunately, at 5-foot-10, there’s not a huge market for quarterbacks his size at BCS schools. Fortunately for Nadir, he’s quick and aggressive enough to play cornerback, and he could also play receiver — at one time Florida liked him as a receiver — so luckily with him, he’s really good on both sides of the ball.”