Growing up in Coram on Long Island, Ian Strong was not much of a baseball fan, but you don’t have to be a passionate follower of our national pastime to understand the history of Yankee Stadium and what it means to be able to play there.
For Strong, the excitement is there as he gets ready to suit up for Rutgers against Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28. (For the uninitiated, the Pinstripe Bowl is a college bowl game played annually at Yankee Stadium since 2010.)
“That’s really cool and historic that I’ll be able to play in a stadium like that,” said the former St. Anthony’s star. “I’m excited that a lot of my family and friends are able to come watch me since this is my first bowl game as a college athlete.”
As a freshman wide receiver for the Scarlet Knights, Strong has been able to get some playing time this season with 15 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown was nothing short of spectacular.
That score was the first in his college career. It happened Sept, 23 at home against Northwestern at SHI Stadium. Getting on the field that day was not something that he was anticipating.
“I was extremely excited,” said Strong. “I was happy I got the opportunity to get in there. I wasn’t expecting it but when it came, I made the most of the opportunity.”
Strong hauled in his second touchdown of the season on Oct. 7 at Wisconsin when he had four catches for 45 yards. He also turned in a strong game on Nov. 11 at Iowa when he had 3 catches for 47 yards.
Not a bad freshman campaign that still has one more game to go.
“I think my first season went well,” said Strong. “I got a lot of opportunities that not a lot of freshmen were able to receive. I was able to fall back on the older kids to teach to me what was important and how to move at a fast pace in college.”
And that’s that separates high school football from college football. In high school, you could be a man among boys. That is not necessarily how it works in college where the players are faster and stronger.
“The speed and the size,” said Strong when I asked him about what the transition was like. “Everyone in the Big Ten is the same size and bigger. The speed that the game is played is a way faster pace than high school.”
Coming out of high school following the 2022 season, Strong was a three-star signee and was ranked No. 1 in New York by Max Preps and 247Sports. Ultimately, he chose to go to Rutgers to play for head coach Greg Schiano.
“He’s the main reason I came to Rutgers,” said Strong of Schiano. “He believed in me and he gave me the opportunity that no other colleges gave me. Anytime he gives me an idea or tells me to do something, I’m going to listen to him.”
Strong was well prepared to play in college because of the experience he had playing at St. Anthony’s. Strong played wide receiver and defensive back for the Friars and had a big senior season on the offensive side of the ball in 2022 with 30 catches for 797 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He became a great player because he went up against great opponents.
“St. Anthony’s plays some of the best competition on Long Island,” said Strong. “We played a couple of (New) Jersey schools. That prepared us really well.”
And now, after a strong freshman season with Rutgers, Strong is ready to experience his first bowl game and he’s going to be able to do it in front of his family and friends at Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl against Miami.
Top: Ian Strong (#29) with the ball in hands. (Credit: Rutgers Athletics)