It’s a sweet Super Bowl victory for this young man who grew up in Woodbridge Township.
That’s because Karan Patel, 25, is one of the junior equipment managers for the L.A. Rams, which just won Super Bowl LVI Sunday (Rams 23, Cincinnati Bengals 20).
Patel is technically a two-year equipment “fellow” for the L.A. Rams, and it’s been his dream since middle school to work for the NFL and win a Super Bowl. And it’s a dream he said was nourished right here on the playing fields of Woodbridge Township public schools.
“I was born in Rahway but we moved to Avenel when I was in kindergarten,” Patel told Patch early Wednesday morning. He spoke to us from his car in L.A., driving to the Rams stadium to prepare for the victory parade through the streets of Los Angeles later Wednesday.
“I actually always wanted to play baseball. But when I was a freshman at Colonia High School, I was 4’9″ and 75 pounds soaking wet. I tried out for the Colonia baseball team my freshman year and was cut. I tried out again as a sophomore. Again I was cut. I was just too small. Well, Coach Pellegrino LaSala (the athletic director at Colonia High School) noticed me. He saw how much I loved sports. He was like, this guy is not giving up. He said I’m gonna give you a chance to be part of the team.”
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Patel was brought on to help the Colonia High football team as their equipment manager. Patel said he worked closely with Coach LaSala and his son, Woodbridge High School football coach Joe LaSala, plus coaches Don Diego and Tom Roarty (who took Colonia football to a state championship in 2015). Patel said these men taught him so much about the game, not just equipment but running and calling plays, directing the team and coaching.
Both LaSala men are close with Eric LeGrand, the nationally known Rutgers football star who also grew up in Avenel. When it came time for Patel to go to college, he told LeGrand he wanted to continue working with football teams. So LeGrand made some calls to Rutgers and Patel became the student equipment manager for the Scarlet Knights, while also getting his college degree and masters at Rutgers.
“He really is a good kid, a hard worker. What you see is what you get with him,” said Cesar Samaniego, who was Patel’s gym teacher at Colonia High School. “Like his buddy Eric LeGrand, who also was a student of mine at Avenel Middle School. They are genuine and real.”
After college, some of his connections on the Rutgers football team connected him with the Rams NFL fellowship. Patel left New Jersey, moved to L.A. and the rest is history.
“I get to work every day with star players like Jaylen Ramsey; I’m on the field doing drills with the team, throwing the football to them. I get to catch punts from Johnny Hekker — and that is not easy! —who is probably going to be in the Hall of Fame one day,” he said.
Winning the Super Bowl Sunday was “a surreal experience. Standing on the field, watching the fans and confetti come down, the players and everybody hugging each other. Being the small kid who got cut from the baseball team, I was like, ‘I’m doing what I love and nobody can ever take this win away from me.'”
If you watch the parade Wednesday, look for Patel; he will probably be on a float. He plans to come home to Woodbridge in a few months to visit his parents, who still live in Avenel.
“My one message to the people of Woodbridge is if there’s something you really want in life, there’s nothing standing in your way but yourself,” said Patel. “Starting in middle school I told everyone, I’m going to work for the NFL someday and I’m going to help a team win the Super Bowl. People told me, ‘Do you know how hard that is?’ I said you watch, I’m gonna make it happen.”