Friday Night Hero: Salisbury's Justin Ruffin
By Ryan Bisesi
SALISBURY – In case you were wondering, Justin Ruffin preferred Strawberry.
In the first “milkshake run” Salisbury’s made since 2010, Ruffin made the breakaway dash of 87 yards on a kickoff to seal the Hornets’ first win. Salisbury coaches ponied up Monday and, as is customary, treated the kickoff return unit to milkshakes.
Ruffin said the treat tasted pretty good on the first day of school, where his off-field smarts compliment the on-field speed. Thanks to his elusiveness, Ruffin doesn’t have to outsmart you on the field.
“He’s one of the brightest kids on the team,” Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan said. “He takes courses and you think ‘why is he taking that.'”
The last time Salisbury got a kickoff return for a touchdown was Romar Morris’ return on opening night two years ago. For a young player trying to learn quickness, Ruffin had a good mentor in Morris.
“Justin’s speed kind of builds as it goes,” Pinyan said. “Romar’s was 4.3 40-yard dash on the first step and the 10th step.”
Two years ago he watched Morris guide Salisbury to a state 2AA title with speed that made him one of the state’s elite.
Ruffin, now a senior, is another benefactor of the Wishbone offense. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound halfback isn’t physically imposing but he is quick. Ruffin carries a 4.47 40-yard dash and was All-County and All-CCC last season while amassing 1,138 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Sophomore year, Ruffin blocked for Morris as a fullback. In 2011, he replaced Morris and prospered as part of a dynamic trio with Dominique Dismuke and Max Allen. This year it’s all about Allen and Ruffin in the backfield and Ruffin has accepted his expanded role. His first carry this year was a 41-yard touchdown run against East Rowan. His playmaking ability and impressive speed make him a natural option to return kicks.
“He has the ability to make big plays since he has great speed,” Pinyan said. “He’s a big-time running back in a small body,”
His three-touchdown night Friday saved the Hornets from starting 0-2 in the 19-7 win against North Rowan. Ruffin and the Hornets got a critical win after being upset in Week 1 by East Rowan. He ran for a 20-yard score in the second quarter put the Hornets on the board and had a 16-yard third-quarter TD. He saved his longest carry for the end, a 43-yard scamper that gave him 124 on the night.
“After the first week, we had to come out and do what we had to do,” Ruffin said. “It was a good performance from everybody.”
Ruffin’s distinguished career at Salisbury has him getting looks from Wofford and N.C. Central. He worked out at combines at Duke and East Carolina over the summer.
“I just hope coaches see something in me so I can play college ball,” Ruffin said.
Add the milkshake to another in the long list of accolades for Ruffin in his prep career. Beating West Rowan Friday would give him another distinct honor. The Hornets haven’t beaten West since 1996. Ruffin was a bright spot in last year’s loss to the Falcons, gaining 105 yards on 11 carries.
“It’s going to be a good game as always,” Ruffin said. “We’ve got to come out and work hard.”