Prep Signing: Salisbury speedster Ruffin going to Appalachian State
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — If Justin Ruffin ever makes it big at Appalachian State, you better know there will be some coaches out there wondering why he didn’t come to their school.
Ruffin can remind them they didn’t want him.
“Everybody kinda let me slide through,” Ruffin said Wednesday during a signing party for several Hornets.
Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan will also remind those coaches of the texts he received.
“I was told by some Division II schools he wasn’t going to be good enough,” Pinyan said, still amazed by those statements.
Appalachian State, who is going Division I, saw something the others didn’t. They offered Ruffin a package as a preferred walk-on with a chance to earn his scholarship.
A “preferred walk-on” means Ruffin will be on Scott Satterfield’s team and will practice with the Mountaineers.
“I’ll do the same as everyone else,” Ruffin said.
A financial package, mainly due to good grades and possible scholarships, has him pretty much set for the first year.
Another positive is that by ASU going to the Division I Sun Belt, there will be more money.
“Justin’s going into a situation where App is ready to add scholarships,” Pinyan said. “Maybe if he has a great fall things will work out for him.”
Things certainly worked out for Ruffin at Salisbury. His senior season, he was Rowan County’s Offensive Player of the Year. His 1,724 yards was the second most in school history, leading the Hornets to an 11-3 record and a berth in the Western 2AA Final.
Those yards came on just 149 carries, meaning every time he was handed the ball, he averaged 11.6 yards. He also produced 33 touchdowns.
“Playing with this group of guys — you don’t forget things like that,” Ruffin smiled.
Charleston (W. Va.), where former Hornet John Knox plays, and Catawba offered. It was a very hard decision.
“I was contemplating a lot on the Catawba offer,” Ruffin said. “It would be nice to stay local and everybody get to see me play. At Appalachian, even though it’s as a walk-on, I can give myself a chance to play Division I.”
The first thing the 5-foot-10 Ruffin noticed was that all the Mountaineer running backs were about his size, just thicker.
“I told him, ‘Justin, you’re going to be thicker, too,’ ” Pinyan said.
And when he is, he’ll credit the Mountaineer coaches.
“Appalachian State gave me a chance,” Ruffin said. “Every team I play, I have to prove to them that they missed out on something special.”
Pinyan says Ruffin has every intention of making a name for himself in beautiful Boone.
“The challenge before him was something he didn’t want to turn down,” Pinyan said. “He has never backed down from a challenge.”
In fact, Pinyan is quick to point out that in two of Appalachian State’s Division I-A titles, its leading rusher was a 5-foot-9 guy named Kevin Richardson.
“Justin fits that same mold,” Pinyan noted.
Ruffin was proudly wearing Appalachian colors during the party in the school gym Wednesday. There was some of that familiar Hornet gold on his ballcap and sweatshirt.
“It’s like I’m bringing a part of Salisbury up there with me,” Ruffin beamed.
If that’s the case, expect some big rushing days from the speedster.
And some long faces from all those coaches who thought he wasn’t good enough.