Rutgers has become a pipeline for Patriots

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, a three-year veteran, is one of four former Rutgers players on the Patriots roster.

FOXBOROUGH - Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano warns his players he isn’t going to embellish their skills. If an NFL coach wants analysis of a player, Schiano is more than willing to provide details.

So when Bill Belichick wanted a report on veteran defensive back Nate Jones, he called up Schiano.

“You don’t talk to that many coaches, but I have a relationship with Bill and we’ve known each other for years now,’’ Schiano said. “When I talk to NFL people I’m honest with them. I tell our players that from the start. We’re not going to make things up about you, so if you want to get to the NFL you need to do the right things. When you deal with people there’s only one way to be, and that is honest.’’


Schiano gave a glowing recommendation of Jones, who signed with the Patriots last week. He’s the fourth player from Rutgers to make the roster this season. The Patriots drafted cornerback Devin McCourty in the first round in 2010 and this season signed Jones and receiver Tiquan Underwood. Defensive end Alex Silvestro, a rookie, is on the practice squad.

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When researching a player’s potential, Belichick said he trusts the opinion of coaches such as Schiano.

“I have a good relationship with him and any time he’s told me anything, it’s always been 100 percent accurate,’’ Belichick said. “I think a player that he’s familiar with, I would definitely want to take the opportunity to get his opinion and see what he thinks because of his experience and the amount of respect I have for him.

“He does a great job with that program and the kids that come out of there that play in the NFL, usually end up playing in the NFL. A lot of colleges get guys drafted or signed or whatever. I’d say that program, most of those kids when they’re on a team, they end up making a team. I think that’s a credit to what he puts them through for four or five years there in terms of preparation for the National Football League, assuming they have enough talent to be competitive. He does a good job of that.’’

Jones played for Rutgers from 2000-03, the beginning of Schiano’s time with the Scarlet Knights.


“What he said about Nate is what I’ve seen in two weeks,’’ said Belichick, who started Jones at safety last Sunday against the Colts.

Jones said he still talks to Schiano on a regular basis. There are 22 players with Rutgers ties currently in the NFL.

“It’s one of the things we get to pride ourselves on in this locker room,’’ Jones said. “I’m always happy and proud to see the number of Rutgers guys that are in the NFL right now and it means a lot because 10 years ago, our program it wasn’t where it is now. We always had talented guys there, but I think Schiano has done a great job of just breeding a different culture there and helping guys get into the NFL, while also getting them a good education and getting them to graduate. That’s always a great thing.’’

Underwood was drafted by the Jaguars in 2009 and played in 13 games over two years before he was cut this past August.

When Underwood joined the Patriots, he said the environment had a familiar feel.


“When I think of Rutgers and Coach Schiano, I think very structured, and that’s why I’m so comfortable here because it’s pretty much the same type of deal,’’ Underwood said. “It’s very business-like and you just come in and do your job.’’

Getting a call from Belichick isn’t unusual for Schiano, and he said he appreciates the chance to talk football with “one of the greatest coaches to ever coach the game.’’ Not to mention, Belichick’s son, Stephen, is a long snapper at Rutgers.

The relationship also could help recruiting, but Schiano said he is most interested in helping players reach their potential in any field.

“A heck of a lot more guys are going to work a regular job than are ever going to play in the National Football League, but they all have to be husbands and fathers and responsible men,’’ Schiano said. “This game of football is the greatest game in the world and it gives us an opportunity to learn about ourselves and prepare ourselves for what is really important down the road.’’