DALLAS (FWAA) – North Dakota State College of Science defensive lineman Ray Ruschel is this week’s nominee for the 2022 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Despite being nearly 50 years old, Ruschel has the courage to go out and play football against players 30 years his junior while working on a degree.
The 6-foot, 225-pound freshman from Wahpeton, N.D. with a U.S. Army/National Guard background has played in all six games for the Wildcats this season with three tackles. Before this fall, he last played football more than 30 years ago in high school.
“Something just clicked in my head, like why not play?” Ruschel, 49. told the Associated Press. He plays about 12 snaps a game.
The Army veteran and 1992 graduate from a Pennsylvania high school, was working an overnight shift at the Minn-Dak Farmers’ Cooperative in Wahpeton and was taking online business management classes during the day. One month into the spring semester, one of his deployment buddies in Washington told him NDSCS had a football program, so he jumped at the opportunity to play again.
In addition, Ruschel is a finalist for the 2022 Armed Forces Merit Award also presented by the FWAA. The Merit Award honors an individual and/or group with a military background and/or involvement that has an impact in the realm of college football.
“Guys that he’s playing against are bigger, faster, stronger than him,” NDSCS Head Coach Eric Issendorf told the Associated Press. “But he’s been able to manage it. His personality …. he’s just a really likable guy with an ambition not to leave any stone unturned. As long as he’s here on this earth.”
The Courage Award was first presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) in 2002. A select group of writers from the FWAA vote on the winner each year. The requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship. The winner of the award will be included in festivities during Capital One Orange Bowl week and receive his trophy at an on-field presentation.
Previous winners of the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award are the University of Utah football Team (2021), Arkansas State analyst Alex Charlton (2020), Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson (2019), SUNY Cortland linebacker Kyle Richard (2018), Wisconsin safety D'Cota Dixon (2017), Pitt running back James Conner (2016), Miami offensive lineman Hunter Knighton (2015), Duke offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson (2014), San Jose State defensive lineman Anthony Larceval (2013), Clemson wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez (2012), Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr. (2011), Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand (2010), the University of Connecticut football team (2009), Tulsa's Wilson Holloway (2008), Navy's Zerbin Singleton (2007), Clemson's Ray Ray McElrathbey (2006), the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis' Haracio Colen (2004), San Jose State's Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo's William Bratton (2002).
About Orange Bowl
Orange Bowl is a 391-member, primarily-volunteer non-profit sports organization that promotes and serves the South Florida community. With its primary mission since being created in 1935 to bring tourism to South Florida through an annual football game and events, it has also maintained a legacy of charitable contributions and community outreach. Orange Bowl’s community outreach is embodied by the four pillars of its Orange Bowl Cares program: Youth Sports, Education, Community Engagement and Legacy Programs. Orange Bowl features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the 2022 Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30. For more information on the 2022 Orange Bowl events, including promotional inquiries and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program presented by Panera Bread, log on to orangebowl.org or follow @OrangeBowl on social media.
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or email@example.com.
To submit a nomination for the Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award, contact Matt Fortuna at firstname.lastname@example.org.