The Wolverine

April 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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APRIL 2022 THE WOLVERINE 61 BY ANTHONY BROOME R ondell Ruff is a former walk-on, an All-American and a national cham- pion at Michigan, but if you had told him that would be the case during his high school days he may have laughed it off. Ruff, who was attending Henry Ford High School in Detroit at the time, saw himself as a football player. Track and field was never a consideration. His eyes were on the gridiron. "My high school days were kind of funny, especially when it comes to track," Ruff said. "I wasn't a big track guy until I became a track guy. And that was my junior year in high school. I had always been a football player, but I was never great. And I was one of those guys that in my mind, I thought I just needed the one big break in football to show my skills and to blossom. "Of course, that never happened." It was not until doing a fitness test in high school that he turned some heads as a potential track star. "I think I ran a mile at that time in like 5:30 or something," he said. "Decent for a kid that's not in any real shape. The gym coach was like, 'Hey, man, you should be on a cross country team. With your average, you would have done okay at cross country.' And I said that I was just going to [play football]. "But I did decide to go out for track that year, and I was the first state quali- fier at Henry Ford High School in 10-15 years for the sport of track and field. Having that success is what threw me into knowing that track and field is probably my ticket and not football." Despite Ruff's late-blooming success in track, his recruitment never skyrock- eted the way he was hoping it would. "Locally, I was good. But I wasn't re- ally on the radar of many teams when it came to track and field recruiting," Ruff said. "So I wasn't after cross country, I wasn't being recruited at all. But I did get recruited medium during the indoor track and field season, which was my first time doing that as well, my senior year, indoor season. "So Michigan never was an option really until it was an option. And it became an option because track and field recruiting was going okay, I had some decent offers from some nice mid-majors, here and there. But none of the situations seemed like a good fit for me." Ruff is a cousin of former football and baseball standout Charles Winters, but that connection did not make U-M a slam dunk. The fact that he was related to a Wolverine at first actually pushed him in the opposite direction. "We grew up in the same house," Ruff said. "And I was almost anti-Michigan because of that. I wanted to blaze my path. But then I figured out I had a scholarship award, and Michigan State was recruiting me a little bit, a couple of other schools were recruiting me. "But when I found that scholarship out, I thought I should go to the best opportunity for me, both academically and the reputation of Michigan, which far preceded itself." Ruff graduated with a general studies degree in 2006 but did not exactly know what his next step was professionally. It was not until he spent a Pro Bowl trip with friend and Michigan football alum Braylon Edwards that he realized he wanted to get back around athletes. Competing was not much of an option with limited financial stability. Coach- ing just fit for him. "Coaching was kind of that thing that to where talent-wise, it didn't matter   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Rondell Ruff Brings Lessons From U-M To Detroit Track Scene Ruff is a former walk-on turned national champion at Michigan for his success in the distance medley relay. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETICS

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