Tywone Malone is a 6-4, 300-pound 16-year old defensive tackle for Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.) who’s already scored upwards of 30 offers, mostly from the who’s who of college football.
So far, LSU, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, USC, Virginia Tech and a slew of other Power 5 schools have offered the junior.
But where does that leave in-state Rutgers – one of the first schools to extend one?
“I’m still open to all schools,” Malone told NJ Advance Media,” but I’m definitely going to try to get down there and see Rutgers a little bit more this year and spend some time with coach Schiano and the staff.”
Malone pegs Rutgers as a realistic option and is open to all schools that have offered and will offer in the near future.
However, he interacts most with three schools — Rutgers, Texas A&M and Ohio State – while Penn State, Florida and Michigan aren’t too far behind.
Malone is being recruited to Rutgers primarily by North Jersey’s Nunzio Campanile, Texas A&M by defensive line coach Elijah Robinson and Ohio State by legendary DL coach Larry Johnson, who coincidentally coached Robinson in college.
Malone hopes to attend a school with a coaching staff that he can “build a strong relationship with” similar to the one he has with Bergen Catholic d-line coach Greg Toal – one of N.J.’s most legendary high school coaches following a long championship run at Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.).
“Coach Toal and I have a great relationship,” he said. “We communicate a lot to try to find ways to help me get better as a player. He taught me a lot over the past two years about how to shed blocks. He helps me with my pass rush. He taught me the long arm and many other moves, too.
“He’s just a great person to be around.”
That tutelage allowed Malone to take his game to the next level in 2019.
“This past season, I think I improved my pass rush. That was one of the things I really wanted to work on going into my junior year,” he said. “Because I was a big run-stopper but I wasn’t really getting a good pass rush. But I was able to develop there and it starts with Coach Toal and Coach Carter, and it paid off.”
However, Malone first found his passion for the game four years ago while a member of the Matawan Huskies, a youth (AYF) football team which finished 2016 as the No. 3 14U team in the country – a team I coached offensive and defensive line for.
That year, Malone played alongside other Division 1 recruits like linemen Rakim Cooper and Ethan Hunt, skill players Jaeden Gould and Jayden Bellamy, and other top up-and-comers like running back Paul Lefkowitz, wide receiver Lenny Loria and quarterback Antonio Rosato, to name a few.
“The Matawan days were probably the best football experience I’ve had,” said Malone, who chose not to reclassify (repeat a middle school year) unlike many top recruits throughout the state. “Going down to Florida playing in the AYF championships. We had a tough loss in the semis against the Hurricanes (from Virginia). I still can’t get that out of my mind.
“But I developed so much. You were a big part of that. I didn’t even know football when I got to Matawan but you coached us up. And then when I got to Bergen, Coach Toal and Coach Carter showed me more ways to succeed against o-linemen.”
Now Malone is an All-American after being invited to play in the 2021 Under Armour All-American game Monday night. And he’s expecting a call sometime next week from the All-American Bowl representatives, as well.
The team that ultimately lands Malone’s services will have to allow him to still play his first love and sport he’s enjoyed since a young child: Baseball.
Malone is a first and third baseman, part-time pitcher and full-time power hitter for the Crusaders.
“I’m looking for a program that would allow me to play both sports in college,” he said. “That’s one big thing I’m looking for within my college choices is to see which schools will allow me to play both sports.”
So far, a few schools have made that commitment.
“I still have coaches hitting me up (about baseball),” he said. “Rutgers’ baseball coaches have talked to me a little bit and have asked me about it. Ohio State said I can do both, which is good. (Texas) A&M said I could do both and Penn State said I could do both, too.”
Malone hopes to improve upon what he felt was an “okay” season on the diamond in 2019.
“Last year, we well short in the counties. I had a slow start but eventually got into a groove again. I started making more contact with the ball and seeing the ball better,” he said.
Malone will prioritize baseball until the season ends, but has one visit planned before it starts.
“Right now, I‘m scheduled to go to Rutgers for junior day on January 25th. But after that, most of my visits will be after the baseball season because I’m just focusing on that right now,” he said. “But I’m definitely going to try to go to Rutgers for that junior day.
“They want me to come down and talk to the coaching staff and get to know them a little bit better.”
Introducing Rutgers Sports Insider: Sign up for exclusive news, behind-the-scenes observations and the ability to text message directly with beat writers
Head coach Greg Schiano has already begun to work on Malone as the 2020 recruiting cycle winds down and class of ’21 takes center stage.
“He’s texted me and we’ve gotten on the phone a little bit. He was just saying that I would be a game-changing player and that he would love to have me stay home and play for him,” Malone said. “He said he thinks I could be a guy that could help him turn the program around and help him bring it back to where it used to be.
“He said he is building a great coaching staff and they are signing good players that can help with that. And he said I would be one of those players.”
Malone doesn’t know much about Rutgers’ newly-appointed defensive coordinator but is encouraged by the addition, as well as others made by Schiano since his return.
“I don’t know a lot about coach (Robb) Smith, but I heard he’s a good coach,” Malone said.
However, Rutgers’ proximity is unlikely to play a role in Malone’s decision.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “It could be good to stay home and it could be good to go away. It’s just pretty much finding a place I can call home and coaches I can build relationships with for the next three-to-four years.
“Distance doesn’t matter.”
One thing that could work in Rutgers’ favor is Malone’s respect for class of 2020 offensive lineman Bryan Felter, who he played the last three years alongside in Oradell, and who signed to Rutgers last month.
“To be honest, I feel like he could have played anywhere. He should have had more offers because he’s a dog, man. I’m telling you. Felter will straight big-body you,” Malone said. “It was so hard to get around him or go through him. I thought he was one of the best o-linemen in the country.”
Meanwhile, North Carolina and Georgia Tech are two schools that have yet to offer, but appear close.
Malone has no timetable to make a decision, and will “go with the flow,” using this time to perfect his favorite crafts.
The 300-pounder moves like a big cat and plays with a motor and tenacity uncommon in players his size. He caught a two-point conversion pass against Paramus Catholic, and connected with quarterback Andrew Boel on a 34-yard reception down the left sideline in a regular-season loss to St. Joseph (Mont.) this year — a flashback to his days playing tight end (and defensive end) for the aforementioned Huskies.
After accumulating 54 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, seven sacks and a batted pass in one of the toughest high school football conferences in the country in 2019, Malone was recently named the top junior in the NJ.com Top 50, a list of N.J.’s top football recruits (regardless of grade).
“It’s honestly a blessing that God gave me the ability and talent to play the games that I love,” said Malone. “It feels good to be known as the top (football) player from New Jersey in the class of ‘21.”
Malone has yet to decide whether he’ll camp this summer or not. He’s more focused on baseball and his final high school football campaign to come after that.
Coming off a 5-4 football year for the Crusaders in 2019, Malone is hungry to change the narrative and has assumed a leadership role on the team.
“The main thing is that everyone’s got to be all hands on deck,” he said. “We are losing a lot of guys from last year’s team and a bunch of new guys will have to play. So everyone’s got to be ready. We’ve got to be mentally prepared for any challenges that come our way.
“We’ve just got to stick together.”
Get Rutgers Sports Insider text messages from reporters: Cut through the clutter of social media and communicate directly with the Rutgers beat writers. Plus, exclusive news and analysis every day. Sign up now.
Todderick Hunt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TodderickHunt. Find NJ.com Rutgers Football on Facebook.