Player Profile: Ruffin all in on Pam Pack turnaround

Published 8:27 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2017

PINETOWN — When Jon Blank took over the Washington football program in late 2016, he did so with the intention of steering it back in the direction that took it to a state-championship game in 2014. It’s not an easy culture to follow. In a way, he had to recruit the players that were already on the team; to find those that were willing to put in the work to turn the program back around.

It can be a tough thing to ask especially of the older players. Some were used to doing what they had been doing — or, in some ways, not doing. Blank said senior running back Hykeem Ruffin was one of the last players that completely bought into the goals set and plans for the future.

Since buying in, Ruffin has evolved into one of Washington’s key players. He ran for over 200 yards and four of the Pam Pack’s five touchdowns at Northside. His impact was felt on defense, too, as he got past the Panther offensive line to make the game-sealing, last-minute sack.

“He was going through some recovery from a broken leg, and he probably had some other things going on, but he has had a completely different mindset this year,” Blank said. “He was one of the last guys, and I hate to put this in print, but he was one of the last guys to buy in.

“At the last second, he did some things for me in the spring to allow me to keep him out here. He showed me in May he really wanted to play football. I think that extra stuff he had to do to get out here maybe made football mean more to him.”

Ruffin has been able to get downhill even when Washington’s offense has been struggling this season. There have been some bumps encountered as the Pam Pack adopts a new offensive system, but he’s arguably been the most consistent aspect. He modestly credits that to the job his offensive line has done.

“They’ve been blocking good for me,” he said. “I’ve been feeling good. We get into it and I just do it. … I’m just doing my job for the team. We’re in a better place right now.”

Culturally, one of the things Blank and the coaching staff are trying to get back to is the emphasis on the weight room. Putting that work in has helped Ruffin add to his power and be fresher throughout the game.

“He feels better now. About a month after he started doing all the workouts the way we wanted him to do them, he started saying his leg felt better,” Blank said. “All of a sudden, because of the hard work he put in, his body feels better. Now you see that burst again. He can carry people when they’re trying to tackle him. He can go in late in the game and play both ways. He was crucial on the defensive side after running for 200 yards.”

It’s validating not only for Ruffin to see the fruits of his labor, but also for the coaching staff to see tangible results of their vision.