Despite an injury right before the season, Orono’s Nick Ruhland has started every game his senior year. Despite never playing the position before, college programs have enough faith in him to make offers with a total of one game started at the position. Through it all, Ruhland has done the little things, kept working on his game and helping the Spartans recover from a tough start to the season.
“We started slow,” Ruhland said. “We had some injuries we had to deal with that hurt us the first few games. The second half of the season, we have been getting things going and getting our chemistry together. I think we are in a good spot coming into the playoffs.”
The second half of the season, the team has improved.
“Offensively, we are a run-heavy team. Against Holy Angels (last week), we ran the ball something like 50 times. Between Danny Striggow and me, we get a lot of carries. On the defensive side of the ball, because of injuries, we have been testing a lot of different people at a lot of different places. The second half of the season, we have been good against the run.”
Ruhland usually is a two-way player, but he was one of the Spartans dealing with an injury.
“I had an injury that limited me to the offensive side of the ball the first three games, but after that, I have played pretty much every single snap.”
“About two weeks before the first game, I tore a ligament in my foot,” Ruhland continued. “I chose to play through that. I went to physical therapy and had it checked out to make sure there wasn’t anything seriously wrong with it. I played with that the first three games. I tried to do the best I could for the team. I would take reps off in practice to make sure I could play in the games.”
Like his team, Ruhland has come on in the last month.
“The second half of the season has gone well. At running back, in my best game, I had 200 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. On defense, I had seven pass breakups in our last game against Holy Angels.”
A good all-around player, Ruhland, feels one part of his game stands out.
“The biggest factor in my game is my speed,” said the two-year starter. “At the Iowa State camp, I ran a 4.41 forty. I just try to run hard.”
Another strength of Ruhland is his versatility.
“I have played every single position on defense except for defensive tackle. The past two games I have been playing outside linebacker. When we move to a five-man front, I will come up to the line as a defensive end. In passing situations, I will drop back into the secondary.”
The secondary is where he feels he plays the best.
“I am most comfortable at cornerback. That is the position colleges are recruiting me at. I think I am a sure tackler and can use my speed.”
His speed put him in the Orono record books.
“I run track,” northstarfootballnews.com’s 67th ranked senior said. “I run the 100, the 200, the 4X100 and the 4X400. I am a two-time all-conference in the 100 and the 4X100. The 4X100 team set the school record last year, and we were all underclassmen, so I think we will have a good chance to make it to State this year.”
This summer, he hit camps and learned a new position.
“I went to camps at Iowa State, South Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, and North Dakota,” the 6’0″ 185 senior said. “We had a great summer lifting program and I also worked on my cornerback skills. This is my first year playing corner. I spent a lot of time getting the technique down.”
Ruhland has offers from Minnesota-Duluth, University of Mary, Augustana, Minnesota-Crookston, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State, and Winona State.
“I have a preferred walk on offer from South Dakota. Lately, I have been talking to Minnesota-Duluth, Winona State, and South Dakota.”
Not just an athlete, Ruhland – through the high school – is involved in the Orono community too.
“I am part of Orono’s Unified program with Special Olympics. I am one of the flag football coaches. It has had a great impact on me, and I think our whole school.”
“I am also part of a club called Letters of Love,” Ruhland explained. “The person who started the club, her mom died of cancer when she was ten years old. She and her sisters got so many cards from people, and it just made her mom’s day. We have meetings once a month, and we make cards for kids in the children’s’ hospital. When we drop off the cards at the hospital, it really shows what the little things can do for people.”
The little things, like being able to play anywhere on the field, is also one of the things that make Ruhland one of the best players in the state.