October 8, 2003

Tom Tarver: Once A Leader, Always A Leader

A highly-regarded New Jersey high school football player is recruited by a number of nationally prominent programs, but ultimately decides to stay home and play his college football at Rutgers. With Greg Schiano working 24 hours a day spreading his vision of the "State of Rutgers", a story with an ending like this has become more and more common. But when Tom Tarver, a top scholastic quarterback at Jackson High School, turned down many out-of-state offers to become a Scarlet Knight 15 years ago, it was a reflection of the type of leader he was. Tom is still very much a "Jersey Guy" and we had the pleasure of talking with him earlier today to get his perspective on the past, present and future of Rutgers football.

LCP: How did you get into coaching?

Tom: I graduated with a degree in special education, so I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a career involving interaction with young people. I started coaching as an assistant at Freehold Boro in 1992, then moved on to Lakewood as an assistant for a couple of years, and settled here at Manalapan in 1996. I began teaching in 1995. I'm currently working towards a Masters degree in Administration at Fairleigh Dickinson.

LCP: Do you have any aspirations of moving into the collegiate coaching ranks?

Tom: Yes, I definitely have a desire to coach college players. I love working with the high school kids and it's tremendously rewarding to watch them mature as individuals and as a team. But there are limitations in developing their skills. I would love the opportunity to work with players at the next level.

LCP: Coach Schiano has recruited very successfully in your league, the Shore Conference. What is it about Coach Schiano that convinces kids like Berkeley Hutchinson, Will Gilkinson and Tre Timbers to play at Rutgers?

Tom: The first thing that strikes you about Coach Schiano is his demeanor. Everything about him is positive, from his body language to the way he describes his plans to put Rutgers on the national football map. He is very direct and honest with everyone about the time and effort it will take to do this. I think the kids can sense a winner and that's the way you feel around Greg.

LCP: To put it mildly, the recent history of Rutgers football has been lackluster. How does Coach Schiano overcome that?

Tom: Right now, the last thing a recruit should consider is the team's recent win-loss record. This is a totally different program under Greg's leadership. I realize that fans can be impatient and expect faster progress. But the people who understand football realize that what Greg is doing is a long process. The players, their families, their coaches, believe in Greg's "game plan" and understand that it will take time. Greg just asks to be judged when he has ALL the pieces of HIS program in place, from players, to coaches, to support and facilities. He is the first to tell you that once the pieces are together, he will have no excuses.

LCP: Have you attended any of the clinics sponsored by Coach Schiano?

Tom: Yes, my staff and I have been to a few. I mentioned earlier that Greg projects a confident and positive attitude. The way he and his staff run their clinics reflects that energy. Everything you do is uptempo and crisp, this is not a group that is unsure of itself. I have incorporated a few of his techniques in my practice plans.

LCP: Many players on the current roster were not recruited by Coach Schiano. You experienced a coaching change during your career as well. What adjustments must a player make in learning a new system?

Tom: I think every new coach comes in with a definite idea of how he is going to get the job done. In my case, with Doug Graber, it was either do it his way or don't play! (laughing) Doug was fair. I was a junior when he took over, but I had to compete for my position like everyone else. That's the way it should be.

LCP: What are some of your special memories as a player at Rutgers?

Tom: Beating Michigan State at their place in 1991, 14-7. I hooked up with my roommate, Antoine Moore, for both touchdowns. Michigan State was a tough Big 10 team with a few players who went on to the NFL. I also get choked up about my last game at Rutgers. We beat Temple, 41-0. Coach Graber was very gracious in taking out each senior one at a time to be recognized by the fans. I'll always remember that he gave me the honor of being the last senior to leave the game. The ovation from the crowd, with my family and friends in the stands, was something very special to me. I came off the field and hugged my position coach, Stan Parrish, and Coach Graber. It was very emotional as I realized this was my last game at Rutgers.

LCP: Do you attend Rutgers games?

Tom: I can when my schedule permits it. Our games are usually on Friday nights or Saturday, and on the Saturdays we do not play, I may be out scouting a future opponent. I did make it up to the Buffalo game as our season had not yet started.

LCP: Tom, thank you very much for being so generous with your time today.

Tom: No problem, I enjoyed it. And GO SCARLET KNIGHTS!!!


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