‘If I had the chance and didn’t take it, I would regret it’; 49-year-old Freshman joins NDSCS Football team

The North Dakota College of Science Wildcats says 49-year-old Ray Ruschel has joined their football team. (Source: KVLY)
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 10:22 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Football is a game of second chances. Whether it’s another down for a dropped pass, forcing a punt to get the ball back, or knowing there’s always next week, most players on the undefeated North Dakota College of Science Wildcats know this feeling well. Nose guard Ray Ruschel perhaps knows it the best.

“They’ve all been very receptive of me coming in and playing,” Ruschel said. “At first, they thought I was another football coach on our first day of camp. And whenever I got in line to get pads, they were like ‘wait a minute, you’re playing?’”

Ruschel is 49 years old, which for most prospective freshman student athletes, may pose too much a challenge. Not quite for the 17-year-long active duty member currently in the North Dakota Army National Guard.

“So, I’ve been surrounded by young people throughout my military career,” Ruschel said. “So on and off the field, these guys are really, truly tremendous, I try and instill being punctual, being awake, just doing my hardest. Working to strive to do my best every day at practice and also during games.”

Head Coach Eric Issendorf sees this too, the former 90s Wildcat player just a year younger than Ruschel.

“He’s always in a good mood, he’s always just Ray,” Coach Issendorf said. “He’s always in a good mood, just ready to work and do what he can for his teammates.”

“Overall, everybody’s been very welcoming and helpful in everything I ask,” Ruschel said.

Ruschel came to Coach Issendorf after finding out about the Wildcat football team from a friend of his within his army unit and was determined to not only make the team, but make a real impact with his teammates.

“I guess he’s a really good symbol to the other guys never to give up hope and there’s always an opportunity if you’re willing to go as far as Ray has,” Coach Issendorf said.

As important as locking blocks, stopping touchdowns and winning games is, Ruschel says his goals remain simple.

“I want to live life,” Ruschel said. “If I had the chance and I didn’t take it, I would regret it. I had a chance, and I’m taking it, and I’m living life to the fullest. And I’m having a blast with everybody playing. Out here playing with these young kids and actually being able to keep up! Surprising myself a lot.”