Imhotep's Ruff honors his Owls commitment

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF Aaron Ruff, a 6-4, 295-pound tackle from Imhotep, is a top recruit who's staying in Philly.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF Aaron Ruff, a 6-4, 295-pound tackle from Imhotep, is a top recruit who's staying in Philly.
Posted: February 06, 2014

WHY WAIT? Aaron Ruff committed to Temple nearly a year ago. He didn't have to. He could have played the recruiting game for all it was worth, since he had options. He just didn't see the point, even if others didn't understand.

"Temple had offered me from the [start]," said Ruff, a 6-4, 295-pound offensive lineman from Imhotep Charter who is rated among the top prospects in Pennsylvania. "When I took a tour, saw the [facilities] and met with the coaching staff, it was like paradise here.

"After I made my decision, a lot of other schools that were interested really started coming back at me. But I told them I was strong. I didn't want to be rude, but I was real with Temple. I wasn't going to go back on my word. I wouldn't do that to coach [Matt] Rhule. Plus, it felt like home. Why should I travel somewhere away from my family, when Temple's got the same stuff? I'd just be wasting eveyrone's time. My family's important to me. This way I'm here for them.

"I mean, it was tempting. I'm not going to lie about it. But my mind was made up. One school, they were [still] messaging me every day. This is during the season. They said, 'It ain't looking good for you [the Owls lost their first six games], why not come play for us? We're only a few hours away, your parents can still come see you in every game.' But I was like, 'No, I'm good.' The only thing that would make me change is if coach Rhule left. And I don't see him going anywhere soon."

Bruce Arians, now the Arizona Cardinals' coach, once said that if Temple could just keep even a few of the top recruits from the Philadelphia area from going elsewhere, it would make all the difference. That was nearly 3 decades ago. Yet the observation remains relevant. Today, Rhule is expected to officially welcome his second recuiting class to North Broad. Among the 26 newcomers are four midyear transfers who will be at spring practice. Ruff, who played last month in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Orlando, Fla., was a big reason his team got to the Class AA state final last season. As one of the local guys who didn't get away, he could turn out to be one of the reasons why the Owls - who are coming off a 2-10 season in their American Athletic Conference debut - could soon return to the kind of program that won 26 times from 2009 to '11.

"Schools were telling me how they had better classes coming in," Ruff said. "But if I can help build up another program, why not do that at Temple? That's all I'm saying. They had a rough season. But they came so close in too many games. You know, I went down there a couple of weeks ago and they were wearing shirts that said, 'Never again.' They have faith in each other, that they can get back on track. I like that.

"Actually, when I was younger I was tired of Philly. But now that I've gone and seen other places I'm like, 'I'm kind of missing it.' I'm a Philly guy. I'm used to the Philly way. Going somewhere [else] feels good, but only for so long. Then you want a cheesesteak and stuff like that.

"I remember when my dad went down to the all-star game, they had something called a 'Philly cheesesteak.' He said it was the most disgusting thing he ever tasted. He said it was about one step away from tasting like dog food. After a few bites, he put it under his seat and tried to act like he never even brought it."

One of the more highly regarded members in last year's class, quarterback P.J. Walker, looked like he could be the real deal after taking over the starting job around midseason. Someone has to protect the franchise. Ruff appears to be as likely a possibility as any.

"One guy can't change it by himself," said Ruff, who wants to be an engineer when his playing career is over. "It took some time for us to really get it done [at Imhotep]. I know what it's like to win, and what it's like to get blown out. It's about changing the attitude. If I can help with that, I'll feel successful. I want Temple to be in everyone's mouth, not just for basketball. I don't want them to be the underdog anymore. Until it actually happens, it is what it is. I just know I feel very comfortable with where I'm going.

"I looked. Temple had what I need."

In paradise, that works both ways.

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