Come on, NCAA. Don’t punish this Rutgers linebacker for doing the right thing | Polity

Drew Singleton was watching the TV show “Power” at his grandmother’s house last December when his phone rang with an opportunity he didn’t see coming. Rutgers received a late invitation to play in the Gator Bowl just days after the linebacker decided to enter the NFL draft, and as a result, Singleton had to make a decision.

Should he skip the bowl and focus on his career?

Or does he rush to Piscataway and take his helmet?

Most players in his position understandably choose to sit out the post-season game to avoid injuries. But for Singleton, the allure of playing was strong. He grew up in Newark and wanted to represent New Jersey on the big stage. He knew that the Scarlet Knights faced long odds playing the talented Wake Forest team on short notice, and that as a defensive leader, he could help.

“I decided that playing the game was the right thing for me,” Singleton told NJ Advance Media on Monday. “Now I hope I’m not being punished for doing the right thing.”

That last bit is still up in the air, though if the NCAA’s Appeals Committee really listens to his case in the coming days — and takes an honest look at the current college football landscape — it shouldn’t be long.

Singleton is seeking a waiver to return to the Rutgers for the fifth year of his eligibility. The NCAA turned down the former Paramus star’s initial request to reinstate him because he accepted money for training expenses from an agent after he began preparing for the NFL draft — money he’s since paid off.

This is where the NCAA officials who decide the case should remember what’s happening in college football right now. everybody take money from someone Thanks to rampant deals in name, image and likeness that have transformed the sport’s “amateur” level into what amounts to a second professional league.

Will the NCAA really penalize Singleton for an apparently old tech? Especially when he hasn’t earned a cent as a pro yet?

“I hope and pray that the coolest minds will prevail and he will receive the award of the year,” Rutgers coach Greg Chiano said. “Look, I get it. If a kid goes out and gets paid to be an NFL player and then wants to come back, I get that (he should be eligible). But that’s not that.

Singleton didn’t just do what he thought was right for Rutgers. injured while doing so. He said he sprained his ankle so badly while playing special teams in the Gator Bowl, that it required him to wear shoes for three weeks.

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He believes an injury hampered him during crucial preliminary training sessions and may have contributed to him not being selected late. Two of his Rutgers teammates who sat outside the bowl — receiver Bo Melton and running back Isaiah Pacheco — heard their name calling in the draft.

“A lot of guys decided to sit down, which I totally understand and respect,” Singleton said. “But being a Jersey kid, a young Rutgers kid, I just wanted to represent my school the right way. I’m just praying that it wasn’t my downfall, and to do what I thought was right wasn’t my downfall.”

This should be a no-brainer. Singleton wants to use his last year of eligibility to earn a master’s degree in labor relations. He’s hoping a solid season for the Scarlet Knights will improve his NFL stock, which will then give him a better shot at a professional career and possibly a chance to earn some NIL cash along the way.

Singleton didn’t want to go into details, but he’s clearly not the only one who needs the income. In addition to sending money back to his parents in Newark, he said he has two nephews he helps support.

“I always help out financially with my family,” Singleton said. I’m just trying to go back and provide for my family. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

Drew Singleton did the right thing. NCAA? it is your turn.

More from Steve Politi:

Juice List 2022: Ranking of the most influential people in New Jersey sports

How a former Rutgers athlete was charged with a murder in Tijuana

The Search for Luther Wright, New Jersey’s Greatest Talent

Masters: Bathroom Secrets from Augusta National

Why little Saint Peter’s is the best Cinderella in the history of March Madness

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Steve Politi can be reached at [email protected].

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