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Look inside Jai Patel's journey to becoming Rutgers football's 1st-team placekicker

Sophomore placekicker Jai Patel will look to make a significant impact with the Rutgers football team in the 2023 season. – Photo by

Earlier this month, it was announced that sophomore placekicker Jai Patel would take over as the first-team placekicker for the Rutgers football team ahead of the 2023 season.

After a training camp competition with senior placekicker Jude McAtamney, Patel, who hails from Monmouth, was awarded the first-team spot and cannot wait to handle field goal and extra point duties for his squad.

"It’s great to take reps with the first team," Patel said. "Every day, I’m just going to come out here and continue to earn my role and earn my job as a young guy on this team right now."

McAtamney, who started all 12 games at kicker for the Scarlet Knights last season, has been a great mentor to Patel in helping him with game situations and adjusting to a much more fast-paced collegiate level of play.

"I think that me and (McAtamney) complement each other very well with our strengths and weaknesses," Patel said. "I’m trying to learn a lot from him as he’s an older guy, and we just continue to help each other out every single day."

Patel said he always loved playing and watching football as a kid and started competing in his local Pop Warner league in third grade. One day, Patel's coach said that the team needed a kicker. Having a background in soccer helped in Patel's decision to answer his coach's call. After hitting a 20-yard field goal, he was hooked and stopped playing soccer to become a full-time placekicker.

Patel's kicking game translated to his high school team in South Brunswick, as he graduated with multiple school records. He kicked for a total of 22 successful field goals, went a perfect 78-78 on extra point attempts and punted for 67 touchbacks. In his senior year, Patel was named to the USA Today All-New Jersey team.

Following his senior year, Patel suffered a collapsed lung and could not play sports for two months. He remembers brushing his teeth one morning and feeling a pinch in his lung. After having trouble breathing, Patel was quickly taken to the hospital, where he stayed in the emergency room for a week. The kicker had to work day-by-day doing lung exercises on his road to recovery.

This experience put things in perspective for Patel. Now, he doesn’t take anything for granted. He says he is 100 percent healthy and ready to make an impact this season.

Playing for a University close to his hometown in New Jersey means a lot to Patel.

"It’s very special and it’s very personal just because I have two older siblings (who) both graduated (from) Rutgers Business School. It’s great to represent my home state," Patel said.

Patel committed to Rutgers in 2022 and was rated as a five-star kicker and three-star punter per Kohl's Kicking.

Patel grew as a kicker in his first season with the team. He focused on getting stronger while learning how to balance his academics, athletics and the transition from high school to college.

"I got a better sense of just being with my teammates and understanding who they are and understanding my role on the team. It’s just understanding how the college game is much different than high school. I just tried to learn something every single day that was new that helped me make my game better," Patel said.

The Scarlet Knights will take on Northwestern at the start of next month, and Patel is looking forward to taking snaps as the starting placekicker for a Big Ten football team.

"We’ve had a great training camp as a team," he said. "We’ve all grown so much closer, and I think each day we’ve gotten better as a team, so I’m really excited."

For more updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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