Syracuse football has been struggling since starting its non-conference schedule 3-1, and we spoke to former Syracuse tight end JJ Nesheiwat about his thoughts on the team in this week’s The Juice on the Cuse Podcast presented by SNY.tv.
Nesheiwat played at Syracuse from 2005 to 2007 where he started 15 games. As a senior, he started 10 games and finished with 17 receptions for 270 yards and two touchdowns.
Nesheiwat has been frustrated by the lack of progress the program has made under current head coach Dino Babers.
“Coach Babers is under the hot seat with his game management skills, so it’s going to be the tough time for the end of this year and next year as well,” he said. “It’s going to be a rough patch for a little bit until we figure out the coaching situation because when there’s uncertainty at the coaching position, there’s going to be uncertainty with the student athletes.”
One thing in particular that has stalled under Babers is recruiting, Nesheiwat said.
Syracuse has traditionally been a difficult place to recruit because of the weather and general lack of blue chip recruits in New York. But with the Orange going a combined 6-17 in 2019 and 2020, including a dreadful 1-10 season last year, it’s made recruiting that much more difficult.
“If you’re not winning and placing a number of high NFL draft picks, it’s hard to recruit student-athletes,” Nesheiwat said. “Those three-star athletes that are deciding between NC State, UNC and Syracuse, I think that’s where we’re having a tough time with.”
Nesheiwat himself was recruited by Dennis Goldman, an assistant coach under Paul Pasqualoni. But Nesheiwat broke his foot early in his senior year at Arlington High School in Poughkeepsie, NY, and instead enrolled at Hudson Valley Community College.
He played one season at Western Carolina under scholarship before returning back to New York, this time, as a walk-on at Syracuse under then-head coach Greg Robinson and tight ends coach Brian Pariani.
Nesheiwat was particularly drawn to Pariani, who coached NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe with the Denver Broncos.
“I thought, ‘This must be a great spot for a tight end,'” Nesheiwat said. “I told (Pariani) I wanted to walk-on, and I just worked my butt off to try to prove myself to get a scholarship.”
And that’s exactly what happened when he earned a scholarship in 2006.
“One day after spring ball, Greg Robinson invited me into his office and told me the great news,” he said. “I was jumping in the air.”
After SU, Nesheiwat went on to play in training camps with the Detroit Lions and New York Giants, and ultimately decided to retire from football and pursue a career in medicine. Nesheiwat was a biology major at Syracuse and on the pre-med track.
“I did a fellowship with the Cleveland Browns with their sports injuries,” Nesheiwat said. “Having had a football background, it was pretty exciting.”
These days, Nesheiwat practices radiology in his hometown Poughkeepsie, right where his football career started. But he’s got other things on his mind now.
“I’m married with a beautiful child,” he said, “and working on another one.”