'The Chop' Is Secret to Rutgers Success

The Associated Press
Saturday, November 11, 2006; 4:17 PM

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers just keeps chopping wood. Coach Greg Schiano has instilled the phrase with the No. 14 Scarlet Knights, his way of telling the team to maintain focus no matter what the situation.

His players now "live by the chop" according to fullback Brian Leonard, and the result is a 9-0 record after Thursday's upset of Louisville.

"If you live by that motto, it can apply to anything in your life," Leonard said. "You get fired from your job, you just stay focused, you keep chopping and you get a new job. If you mess up on a play, you stay focused, put it behind you and look to the future, don't look to the past. That's what we do as a team now."

Schiano began using the phrase "just keep chopping wood" after Rutgers blew a big lead to Illinois on opening day last season, and the Knights have gone 16-4 since.

He first heard about it from Dr. Kevin Elko while serving as Miami's defensive coordinator. Dr. Elko is a sports psychologist who was working with the Hurricanes and now helps out at Rutgers.

"He said this, and it didn't catch on there but I always remembered it," Schiano said. "When he started working with us here, we were talking after Illinois, it just came to me. It was no great work of thoughtfulness. Right now we're in a bad spot, we're in the middle of the forest, it's all dark, we can't see. Get an ax and just start chopping away.

"You never know what will catch on with young people. That one, for whatever reason, maybe we kept throwing it at them, but it caught on and now it serves as something more than words."

Defensive tackle Ramel Meekins remembers the meeting room after the loss to Illinois.

"He didn't know what to tell us. He was thinking about what he was going to do to get us back on the job and not let that be the end of our season," Meekins said. "And he came up with the chop and it made sense. Every time we win from doing chopping, it reinforces that even more."

It has gone from locker-room mantra to campus sensation. During Thursday's Louisville game, numerous banners were caught by ESPN cameras relating to "The Chop." One called Rutgers Stadium the Chop Shop.

The Chop's power came through that night, as Rutgers rallied from a 25-7 deficit for a 28-25 victory.

"As you could see, it worked out good for us," safety Courtney Greene said. "We were down by 18 and it turned real fast because we didn't panic, we just kept chopping.

"I think the whole school knows about it now. They mention it to us when I'm in class, (saying), 'Keep chopping, Courtney, keep chopping.' And now the whole nation knows about it."

© 2006 The Associated Press