Hayden Rettig has seen college football life in the Big Ten and the SEC, but what he wanted to see most of all was the playing field.
The Rutgers graduate transfer committed Sunday night to Tennessee Tech, an upstart FCS program in need of a quarterback to run its pro-style offense. He will be immediately eligible in 2017 for his final season.
"It's a good fit," Rettig told NJ Advance Media. "I think we can do a lot there. I love the coaches. I just wanted a place where I was needed, and Tennessee Tech was the place."
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Rettig said he clicked with quarterbacks coach Derek Carr and wide receivers coach Frederick Walker, but he also was drawn to head coach Marcus Satterfield's resume.
On the same day that Rettig made his only career start at Rutgers -- a sharp performance against Norfolk State -- Satterfield was putting himself on the radar for head coach jobs as Temple's offensive coordinator with a 2015 season-opening upset victory against Penn State.
"I see a lot of good things," said Rettig, whose chief competitor figures to be returning backup Colby Brown (seven career games played, two starts). "I'm very excited to finally get a chance to play and be me. Have fun and win games."
A former four-star recruit out of California, Rettig transferred to Rutgers from LSU in the summer of 2014 and redshirted under NCAA rules.
After a neck-and-neck battle to be the 2015 starter, Chris Laviano won the job and Rettig was limited to 14-of-25 passing for 233 yards over five games. Then-coach Kyle Flood's refusal to give Rettig an opportunity sparked the social media hashtag #FreeRettig.
After a coaching change and Rutgers' switch to the power spread offense, Rettig did not play in 2016. Laviano lost the starting job to Giovanni Rescigno.
"I just wanted to find the place to give me the best opportunity," Rettig said. " I really don't have much time. I told the coaches I don't care if there are 100,000 people in the stands or 20,000 people in the stands. I just want to get somewhere where I have the opportunity to show I can do this."
In a strange coincidence, both Rettig and Laviano announced their transfers within days of the 2016 season ending, and both found their new destinations on the same weekend. Laviano is bound for San Diego State.
Rettig, who graduated from Rutgers in December, could have enrolled at another school for the spring semester to be part of spring practice.
But he was purposely deliberate in his search from home in California, and thus will not enroll in graduate classes until 2017-18 school year begins. He also had limited game tape to draw in suitors.
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"I'm going to try to get down there as soon as I can to know the playbook," Rettig said. "I'll live there and be a part of the team when I get into school in the fall."
Tennessee Tech was 5-6 with a senior quarterback last season but has become a popular home for FBS transfers. Former Rutgers cornerback Nadir Barnwell was on the team last fall.
Like everything else in his five-year journey, Rettig used the last few months as a learning experience, hoping the third time is the charm.
"It really tells you who you are as a person," Rettig said. "Yeah, I've transferred before, but I really want this. It's something that I dreamed of and I still dream of. I kept pursuing it.
"I'm going to get my master's degree and work hard to get a spot. That's what I want to do. The last eight weeks have just been me working my craft and getting better to be in this position when the time came."
Ryan Dunleavy may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @rydunleavy. Find NJ.com Rutgers Football on Facebook.
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