Tommy Amankwaa, making an impact at Rutgers, talks about playing with his brother, and the big play in Michigan State comeback

Tommy Amankwaa (#24, right) celebrates after recovering a sky kick in the fourth quarter that led to what would be the game-winning score in a 27-24 come-from-behind victory over Michigan State in Big Ten play at SHI Stadium in Piscataway on October 14, 2023. (Photo courtesy Rutgers Athletics)

The tide had already turned, but the heroic comeback was not yet complete, making Thomas Amankwaa’s play just as critical as any that came before it.

It was just as huge as Aaron Young landing on the ball in the end zone after Michigan State botched a punt. Just as big as the perfect placement on a pass by Gavin Wimsatt to Isaiah Washington in the end zone for the touchdown that put Rutgers within three points of Michigan State.

But this one was the difference in the end.

In the fourth quarter, Amankwaa recovered a sky kick on the ensuing kickoff that bounced in front of a Spartan return man. It was a live ball. It was a play he and his teammates have practiced many times.

It worked, and one play later, Rutgers had the lead on a 21-yard touchdown run by Kyle Monangai.

Tommy Amankwaa – a former star at Hillsborough – has been slowly but surely contributing more and more for the Scarlet Knights. The sophomore has made some plays on defense and special teams, but nothing like this one.

Hillsborough’s Thomas Amankwaa and his family on signing day in the Hillsborough High School Library on December 15, 2021. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

And probably many more are to come. If you’d seen Amankwaa play for the Raiders, you’d know.

Plays like that were what defined Amankwaa when he played for the Raiders, and got him a scholarship from Greg Schiano in the first place. Besides starring on a team that won the Central Jersey Group 5 title, and was the first 13-0 squad in school history, Amankwaa made big play after big play his entire career.

Early in that 2021 championship season, he won the Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week award in an overtime victory against Phillipsburg, scoring the go-ahead touchdown in overtime, then picking off a fourth-down pass in the end zone to seal the win.

Then, in the last game of the year, he grabbed two huge touchdown receptions (43 and 53 yards) in the South 5 regional finals at SHI Stadium – now his home field – against Kingsway, the latter of which was a brilliant grab over a defender before Amankwaa put the ball in his far hand, stiff-armed the defender with the other, and finished off his run to the end zone.

After his first down that day, he did Greg Schiano’s chop in the end zone. That was as a Hillsborough Raider. Now, he’s living the chop every day, as a Rutgers Scarlet Knight.

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