Big-time Big North DE George Rooks Jr. has lots to cross off his to-do list in 2020
His grandfather played in the NFL. His father, George Sr., was Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year before his NFL stint. His sister, Taylor, is a two-time Gatorade New Jersey Girls Basketball Player of the Year. It’s safe to say that George Rooks Jr. comes from a long line of gifted athletes. Coming off a Non-Public Group 4 state title in his own right (New Jersey’s most-talented group), the Marauders’ top recruit holds the family torch high.
“There’s been a bunch of different people in my family who have played college or professional sports,” said Rooks, a 6-5, 270-pound four-star defensive lineman from St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.). “So I’m blessed to have everyone in my family give me lessons on how to excel in everything I do.”
Rooks will represent his family and state (alongside Tywone Malone) in the 2021 Under Armour All-American Game. Before that, he’ll try to lead his team to a second-straight title (if there’s a season) and likely pick the college he’ll attend. But he’s clearly in no rush.
“Right now, there’s no decision date,” said the rising senior. “I have to feel comfortable. Because if I give a decision date and I don’t feel comfortable with it, there is really no point in committing that day. So, whenever I feel comfortable, that’s when I’m going to commit.”
If he were to choose today, his top four schools – Michigan, Penn State, Pitt, and Boston College — would have an edge, while Miami and Syracuse (where George Sr. played) round out his top six.
“Those four are talking to me most. They are all constantly giving me pointers on how to improve my game,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. I feel important to them.”
If any of those four schools have separated from the pack, Rooks is keeping it close to vest: “It’s coming to a point where I’m trying to figure it out, but not yet. Not now,” he said.
One thing is clear: His decision will be a family-oriented one.
“My family is comfortable with the coaches at all of those schools,” Rooks said. “They know that I can blossom at them and get better every day.”
Rooks is also being courted by Rutgers as Greg Schiano will do his best to keep him home. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Nebraska, Duke, Louisville and Georgia Tech have also offered.
Rooks brings the size and versatility that all coaches seek, and the gifts required to play inside and out. He’s also productive – made 71 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, six hurries, three batted passes and two fumble recoveries for NJ.com’s football Team of the Year in 2019.
“All of the schools say I’m a defensive end who can play three-tech or a three-tech who can play defensive end. They all see me as a versatile guy who can play both,” he said. “Some schools want me in a certain spot in pass downs or run downs, but it’s mostly the same.”
Rooks is cat-like quick but also a skilled pass rusher with technique. He’s got great feet for a player so large and can close the distance on a ball-carrier like no other defensive lineman in the state can.
“I can feel where a guy is going leverage-wise. You’ll see me sometimes use a swim move or Olay move as I like to call it and get to the quarterback really quickly because I know which way the guard or tackle’s leaning. So, I can (dictate) the leverage. I’ve been training that with my dad my whole life.”
“It’s really just him teaching me how to slow the game down,” George Jr. said. “It’s not about just going out there and being clueless. You’ve got to understand the little things like alignment, how his hands are set up, where he’s going to pull, stuff like that.”
Rooks is the second-ranked recruit in the NJ.com Top 50 and the No. 123 recruit in the country per Rivals.com. But he’s driven most by his own will to excel.
“For me, it’s not really about rankings and stuff like that because everybody has their own opinions,” he said. “I respect your list. You know your stuff, so I wouldn’t say you’re wrong. I’m just going to keep improving and try to get better every day.”
In doing so, he can accomplish his main goal heading to college.
“My senior year, we are trying to go back-to-back. That’s the best thing that can possibly happen to me,” Rooks said. “I don’t think St. Peter’s has ever done it yet, so why not be the first?”
Prep finished 11-1, won a share of the Super Football Conference’s United Red Division and capped a memorable season with a 21-14 victory over Don Bosco Prep in the Non-Public, Group 4 final last fall. Rooks would love nothing more than for his team to do it again. On his last dance.