Nicknamed the Garden State, the state with the densest population doesn't have many green thumbs left. But college programs are cultivating New Jersey football talent, turning recruits into one of the state's leading exports.
On the NFL's opening weekend, it was no surprise players from the traditional powerhouse states dominated rosters. Football factory triumvirate California, Florida and Texas led the way. Usual suspects Georgia and Ohio rounded out the top five.
Then there was a big surprise from one of the littlest states. New Jersey, smaller than the largest county in California, had the sixth-most NFL players with 63.
"Although not perceived nationally the same way," Kansas coach Charlie Weis said, "[New Jersey] is grossly underrated."
Not to college coaches anymore, though, says Weis, who has signed two prospects from his native New Jersey and has a third committed in the 2014 class. A New Jersey high school coach for seven seasons in the 1980s, Weis remembers it was mostly just the local schools recruiting the area then.
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has been with the Scarlet Knights for nearly a decade and agrees with Weis. The public perception differs greatly from the coaches', though, Flood said. While he recruits mostly in his own state, he has competed with Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and UCLA over the last nine years.
"There are many schools around the country from major conferences that recruit a little bit more nationally," Flood says, "and any of the schools that do it, they always come to New Jersey."
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