Competing at Rutgers prepared R.J. Dill for the NFL

By Matt Sugam

When R.J. Dill was looking for a place to play for his fifth year of eligibility, he could rattle off a list of reasons why he chose Rutgers.

But one thing stuck out when he met with head coach Kyle Flood. Despite starting 33 games – including 30 consecutive starts – at Maryland, Dill was going to have to compete for a job.

It’s something no other school Dill was looking at said. Yet it was exactly what he wanted to hear.

“It helped me learn how to come into a team when you’ve had success at a high level and earn your way into it,” Dill told as he trains for Rutgers’ Pro Day on March 13. “It’s a different process for a lot of these guys having been the guy on their team for three years now. They’ve been the starter, they’ve done everyting there, they’ve proven themselves to the coaches.”

Which is what Dill had done at Maryland. So as he looked to play one more year of college football before pursuing his NFL dream, he wanted a place that wouldn’t just hand him a job.

The reasoning was simple. When he headed to the NFL, he’d have to fight just to make a team, let alone start.

So while his stint at Rutgers lasted just under 12 months, it’s a year that provided him with an invaluable experience he hadn’t had in a few years.

“Just last year I walked into a new program, proved myself again, and here I have to do it again,” Dill said. “So it’s kind of become a usual thing, so I think that will kind of help me.”

As will displaying how quickly he can learn a playbook, which he had to do in order to even give himself a chance to be tabbed the starter by the end of spring practice.

“I learned a whole new system and terminology in 2-3 months,” Dill said. “I was ready for spring ball last year.”

Which translates into being able to learn an NFL system by training camp.

And along with being mentally ready, Dill is also physically ready, passing the eye test of a prototypical NFL tackle.

“There’s only so many people that god has blessed on this earth that are 6-foot-7, 300 pounds and have some athletic ability,” Dill said. “I’ve been very fortunate that god blessed me with that. Can’t teach that.”

Just like Dill can’t predict if he’ll be a late round draft pick or sign on as an undrafted free agent. But it’s not something that concerns him either way.

“That’s not something that I can control,” Dill said. “I can control how hard I work right now. I can control my attitude everyday with training down here. I can’t control what teams think of me, where they’re going to pick me.

“That doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that when you get to a team, you perform and make the team, because you got to make the team regardless, so I’m not really worried about where I get drafted or what the projections say or any of that stuff.”

All Dill wants is a chance. From there, he plans to make the most of his opportunity.

“Drafted isn’t the end of the journey, it’s the beginning of a new one and I think that’s how I’m going to view it,” Dill said. “It doesn’t matter where I go. It’s starting a new opportunity, a new journey and a pro career that I’m very blessed to have an opportunity and we’ll see what happens on draft day, but to me, wherever I end up, whatever round I end up going in, it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to work as hard as I can and try and make a team. ”

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