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March 24, 2008In his fifth year with the Rutgers football program, senior Jamaal Westerman will make sure this year's defensive line won't be short on experience as he tries to cap off a stellar college career with a strong senior season. However, he is not only looking for just a strong individual season, but a solid season from the entire defense as well.
"We had a good off-season," said Westerman. "Everybody's working hard. You really see that fire in everybody's eyes that we want to get back to the top. We want to get back to where we believe we should be at. The young guys are working hard and even the old guys are working that much harder to really put our mark on this program. Overall, it's just a higher level intensity of work."
Rutgers' International Bowl victory served as a homecoming for Westerman as he returned to the area where he grew up and played his high school football. That homecoming went on to extend beyond the rest of the team's stay.
"I stayed at home after the break and spent time with my family and enjoyed it. I just kind of reflected back on the season and how to set goals personally and where we want to be as a team in '08," said Westerman.
Now that he is back in Piscataway, Westerman is anxious to get back to work. The team's most seasoned veteran talked about what he and his team hope to accomplish this spring.
"Everybody needs to get better. I don't care who you are - freshman, red shirt freshman or a fifth year senior like I am. You have to improve the little details that during the season you might not have much time to improve on. It's good to get back at it because this is what we all love to do. It's good to work with the D-Line and the new coaches. We lost a couple of guys but we're trying to melt together as one defense, one defensive line, one team."
The loss of last year's defensive captains presents a prime opportunity for new leaders to emerge. With two-time captain Eric Foster gone, Westerman will need to be more of a leader on the defensive line.
"I think I'm trying to work more on being a better vocal leader," said Westerman. "I've been here the longest out of anybody so I'm trying to get these young guys and show them what to do and give them some encouragement and guidance."
This spring will also be a monumental time for Westerman in the classroom. Before training camp comes around, he will have already earned a college degree. Nonetheless, his efforts in the classroom won't stop there.
"I'm going to be joining the Master's program in the fall. I'm taking two classes now and hopefully I'll be graduating and walking May. Then, I'll start on my Master's Program in Labor Relations in the summer."