Tags: Feature Sports Story, Sports
Ruzga, (shown here in spring 2011) is ranked first in the state in Division 1 300 hurdles heading into the spring 2012 track season.
February 08, 2012 | 07:55 AMIt's been almost a year since the day that changed Eddy Ruzga's life forever.
In February 2011, the Badger senior was enjoying a strong run in the Division 1 wrestling playoffs and was gearing up for sectionals and a possible state appearance.
A family-oriented person, the 18-year-old Linn Township resident was close with his aunt Rita and knew she would be thrilled if he made the state wrestling meet.
However, Rita was battling cancer, and she passed away just before the sectional wrestling meet. Ruzga was ready to miss sectionals to attend Rita's funeral. But thanks to advice from family and friends who convinced him Rita would've wanted him to keep wrestling, Eddy competed at sectionals and went on to win a match at state. He dedicated the rest of his season to his aunt and knew she was watching over him.
On Monday at Badger High School, Ruzga said Rita and his entire family were always proud of his accomplishments.
Recently, Ruzga gave Rita one more reason to be proud.
Last week, he signed a commitment letter to play Division 1 football and run track at Army in West Point, N.Y.
A 6-foot-3, 220-pound beast who looks like he was carved from granite, Ruzga has the frame for the next level and runs a 4.6 40-yard dash. His dad, Eddy Sr., had a stint wi th the Detroit Lions of the NFL as a linebacker and defensive end. Also, his brother Anthony was a football standout at Badger and briefly played for Wisconsin.
Ruzga rushed for 492 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. His best game came in a 55-27 win at Wilmot, where Ruzga ran for 151 yards on seven carries with two touchdowns.
He is the second D1 football recruit from Badger in the last year and the area's third D1 signee since 2009. Brad Nugent (center) signed with D1 Southern Mississippi in February 2011. Back in 2009, Wisconsin Badger starting left guard Travis Frederick (Big Foot) signed with the Badgers.
In track, Ruzga took seventh in the 300 hurdles in June at the state meet, and he is ranked first in the state in Division 1 heading into this spring. An three-sport star, Ruzga currently is 28-4 in the 220 weight class and will compete at the Badger Sectional Saturday.
And oh yeah, the guy gets all As in school. There isn't much Ruzga can't do.
The Regional News met with Ruzga Monday to discuss his future and reflect on his brilliant career at Badger.
RN: How did Army approach you?
ER: It was kind of funny because I never thought of Army. One day the recruiter just flew in to see me. This was about two months ago. He just showed up. And I liked what I heard. He told me to come and see the school, and I did, and I couldn't say anything bad about it. They first wanted me for track, but he loved my size and said I could play five positions for football. It was awesome. That's a lot to hear from a D1 school.
RN: What other schools did you consider?
ER: I could've done track and walked on for football at Wisconsin. But it was more for academics. A lot of D3 schools were interested. My brothers and sister went to Madison.
RN: Did you have to shop around a highlight tape?
ER: Badger put together a highlight tape, and I helped with it. The coaches helped so much.
RN: When did you decide you wanted to play college football?
ER: I always wanted to play college football. Football is the best sport. Carrying the ball is so fun.
RN: Why did you like Army so much?
ER: One, it's D1 football. There's so much honor and respect there. Teachers will help the cadets until 9 or 10 p.m. You serve with them later. Everybody is like a family.
RN: What are the rules about serving the country?
ER: Right now, it's like regular college. I do boot camp first. I take eight classes, where other colleges only take four. Once I graduate, I have to go in the military five years, and I choose my branch. There is a prep school in the summer before school. On July 18, I leave for boot camp.
RN: Have you ever been interested in serving the country?
ER: Football is a really big part of it. Serving was one of the reasons I debated going there. It's a bit scary, but I will base it on how I feel. You can get a release after two years.
RN: What positions will you play at Army?
ER: I may play five positions, but I like fullback the best. I will be on the track team, too, most likely hurdles.
RN: Do your parents have an athletic background?
ER: My dad, Eddy Sr., played in the NFL for the Detroit Lions. He didn't stay too long because he got hurt. Then he became a chiropractor. He switched from linebacker to defensive end in the NFL. My dad is massive. So I started playing football when I was 8 or 9, and he always pushed me harder than everyone else. He made me the best I could be.
RN: What will you remember about Badger football?
ER: My coaches, the relationship I had with them. Once you get to know them, it's pretty cool. They'll do anything to help you get where you want to be.
RN: Who is your biggest inspiration?
ER: My brother, Anthony, and my dad. Anthony really helped me out, he was always there. In wrestling, he always pushed me by beating me up. It helped out. And I wouldn't be moving if I didn't have my dad. He's awesome.
RN: Do you do well in school?
ER: I've gotten mostly all As. That was my mom's side. And my dad's smart, too.
RN: What would you like to major in at Army?
ER: I wouldn't mind being a chiropractor or a strength coach. I love working with other people and helping them out.
RN: What do you enjoy in your free time?
ER: I love fishing and hunting. I love the outdoors. I go mainly to Lake Geneva. It's something I do with my dad and brothers.
RN: What are your goals for the rest of your senior year?
ER: In track, I'm ranked first and second in the state for my hurdles events. In wrestling, I'm ranked in the top five. I want to win state at 220 in wrestling. Gruettner was the 220 champ last year. I want to face him again in the state finals. It gives me butterflies to think about. In track, I have the best chance in the 300.
RN: What advice do you have for young athletes that want to be just like you?
ER: A lot of people aren't confident at first. It's really tough. There will be times where you want to quit. I've felt like that before. When you get to state and you know you've made it there, or when you score a touchdown, everything is worth it. Everybody's cheering for you, and it's the best feeling.