You can't miss Rufus Rushins. The Bishop Fenwick running back and defensive end is a powerful presence on the football field, standing 6 feet 1 inch and 230 pounds. On Friday night, he was kept under 100 yards but still found the end zone twice in the Crusaders' 48-18 win over Austin Prep. The week before, against Cardinal Spellman, he took 24 carries for 233 yards, displaying brute strength up the middle and flashy speed on the outside. His 13 touchdowns are a big reason for No. 17 Fenwick's 5-0 start.
In this week's edition of "First & 10," Rushins talks about playing with a target on his back, his fitting name for a running back, and his pregame rituals.
First off, you guys beat Austin Prep on Friday night. What was it like to get that big win?
“It was a very good feeling. Overall, we were pretty amped that we’re No. 1 in the league right now. But we've got to keep working at it and I think good things will come.”
You guys took it to them on both sides of the ball; what is it like to have a game like that?
“We were working over that defense all week long. [Coach] gave us a really good look when it comes to how they run their offense, so we were really prepared for anything they could give us.”
It was a meaningful game for the conference standings and playoffs as well. Do you take that into account going into a game or do you try to tune it out?
“Honestly, it’s a little bit of everything. Every game is important and we obviously want to try to win every game. But yes, we do take that into account, especially going into league games, and that was a big factor in why we practiced so hard.”
Austin Prep had prepared a game plan to stop you. What is it like to have that target always on your back?
“Every team has it, so it’s really not bothersome to me anymore as it was in the past. Even if they try to load nine guys in the box, we have good receivers. I think Austin Prep paid the price.”
How nice is it to have options on offense, especially when they load the box?
“It takes some stress off of me. I don’t always have to run the ball. I can rely on my wide receivers that they’re going to make the catch. And obviously [quarterback] Nick [Bona] is going to give them a good throw. It makes it easier on me.”
And you still managed to find the end zone twice.
“I’m a little bit more of a power back, even though I do have some speed on me. So my mind-set every time we went into our power-I set was, ‘This is just hard-nosed football. I’m just going to bring it to them.' "
Sometimes you have three or four guys on your back trying to bring you down and you’re moving the pile. What is that like?
“It’s pretty tough, but you've just got to keep your legs moving. That [comes from] me working on my legs in the offseason.”
If Rufus Rushins the defensive end and Rufus Rushins the running back went at each other, who would win that battle?
“That’s a tough question that I have yet to know the answer to. [Laughs.] I honestly can’t give you an answer. I love both. I love playing D-end and I love running the ball.”
Which do you prefer playing?
“Right now, I do prefer playing running back.”
Does it give you an edge when you play defensive end to know how the opposing running back is thinking, and vice versa?
“Yes, because I know both mind-sets. I know what a running back would be thinking in terms of how he’s going to block me and ways he’s going to cut, especially since we can run so many things. I kind of have a little bit more knowledge and it definitely makes it easier when I’m trying to defend it.”
How long have you been playing each position?
“I started playing running back in sixth grade for the Lynn Chargers. I’ve been playing defense since I was 7. First it was nose guard and then I got to switch when I came to high school to defensive end.”
Were you always one of the bigger kids playing football growing up?
“Yes. In Pop Warner, I didn’t run the ball because they have that weight limit. But with the new youth league, there’s no weight limit and that’s when I started running the ball.”
I have to ask about your name. Did you feel like ever since you were born, you were meant to be a running back with the last name, Rushins?
“[Laughs.] No, not for a while. In elementary school, I always just wanted to play on the line. But then I kind of had that calling in sixth grade, and that’s when I turned into a running back.”
There’s not many running backs your size, especially in high school. What is it like to be one of the bigger running backs?
“Sometimes it’s tough, because even as I was coming into high school and I was looking at schools, a lot of schools didn’t look at me as a running back. So it’s tough proving yourself that you have the speed and ability. But I still have to say it’s been more of a strength than a weakness. Having the speed and the muscle to be able to take hits and break tackles and still having that speed has really worked out for me.”
Are you trying to play football in college?
“Yeah. I’m in the stage of recruiting. I have a few schools looking at me. Boston College wants me to play defensive end and UMass wants me to play running back, so I’m kind of in a standstill.”
How much will the position they want you to play weigh into your decision?
“It definitely does weigh in because you've got to be happy wherever you go. Especially choosing college, you've got to make sure you’re happy. If you’re not happy playing the position, I don’t think you should be playing at that school.”
So do you have a timeline for making that decision?
“I’m just kind of going to wing it. Wait it out and when the time comes, that’s when I’ll make it.”
Any running backs you try to model your game after?
“No, I really don’t watch a lot of football, to be honest. I really just try to do my own thing. I try to be different.”
What do you do off the field?
“Usually online playing ‘Call of Duty,’ you know, the usual teenage stuff.”
Any pregame rituals?
“I have a few that I do. I usually go home, listen to some music -- and this is going to sound pretty weird -- I usually play the ‘Legend of Zelda’ before every game. I’ve been doing that since freshman year and it’s worked out pretty well. [Laughs].”
When you put the headphones on pregame, what’s coming through?
“I listen to pretty much a variety of music. I listen to Coldplay but then I also listen to Eminem, so a little bit of everything.”
Any favorite pregame meals?
“I love when my mom and dad make me hamburgers.”
Ever take the O-Line out to dinner?
“A lot of the O-Line are my best friends. My best friend Justice Andrade is our center. Unfortunately I don’t have the money to take them out [laughs], but a lot of them are my best friends. It’s good because I know they have my back and they know I have theirs.”
Do you ever go up against them in practice when you’re playing defensive end?
“Yeah, it’s always a competition of who can pancake who. I used to play O-Line so I know how hard it is. It’s a tough, tough position to play.”
What’s something that a lot of people don’t know about you?
“I actually like lacrosse and I’m thinking about playing it this year.”
It seems like you guys have something special going on at Bishop Fenwick this year. What is it like to be a part of that?
“It’s amazing. It kind of feels like when I was down in Texas, being around the best of the best. I was down there in 2009 [for Team USA], they invited 22 kids, 11 on defense, and I won defensive MVP against Team Canada.”
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