DeMatha lineman has big shoes to fill -- Gazette.Net


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Brock Ruble burst into DeMatha Catholic High School football coach Elijah Brooks’ office with a big problem. Literally.

Ruble tore his cleat during practice the previous day and he worried about finding a replacement before the team’s 2012 game against Our Lady of Good Counsel.

“What’s the big deal?” Brooks asked. “Just get another pair.”

“Coach, there aren’t many size 20 cleats just at stores,” the 6-foot-9, 310-pound offensive lineman said. “They take time to order.”

Ever since Ruble’s feet grew to size 18 during eighth grade, his dad attempted to keep a backup pair of cleats ready in advance, knowing how difficult they were to procure. But at that point, Ruble had no alternative and was practicing in a shoe held together by tape.

Brooks said they called “every store in the area.”

“It became panic time,” Ruble said.

Finally, they found a pair on eBay that arrived just in time for that game.

Unfortunately for Ruble, DeMatha lost, but he’s hoping the result will flip when the teams are scheduled meet at 7 p.m. Friday at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex in Landover. Ruble and DeMatha will attempt to snap Good Counsel’s four-game winning streak in the rivalry, which includes Good Counsel claiming its fourth straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship with a win in the 2012 title game.

Ruble, who was recruited to DeMatha by football, basketball and baseball coaches, has emerged as one of the state’s top football recruits. He’s narrowed his choices to Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina State, Ohio State and Tennessee.

First, he narrowed his focus at DeMatha.

Ruble nearly quit football as a sophomore to focus on basketball. But while attending an Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournament the summer prior to watch his son, Ruble’s dad happened to meet a college football scout whose son was also playing. When Ruble’s dad pointed out his own son, the scout remarked Brock had the body of a Division I football recruit.

When he heard the assessment, Brock decided to give football one more try.

Until the playoffs, Ruble’s season high was four snaps in a game — and one was a kneel-down play. But in a WCAC semifinal loss to Gonzaga, the starting left tackle went down, and Ruble stepped in and played well, reaffirming his decision not to quit football.

“Other than going to DeMatha in the first place,” said Ruble, who commutes an hour and 15 minutes each way from his home near La Plata, “I think deciding not to do that has been one of the best decisions of my life.”

The next year, Ruble gave up baseball to focus on football.

By that time, he had already shown a keen understanding of football, even though he occasionally missed team functions due to basketball and baseball.

“I don’t know if he would be this successful if he wasn’t as smart,” Brooks said. “He’s forced to split his time, and a lot of times, he’s playing catchup. But it makes it easier, because he’s a bright kid.

He’s an intelligent player. He really understands concepts. I think he could end up being a coach when his playing days are over.”

DeMatha basketball coach Mike Jones also raves about Ruble’s intelligence. On the hardwood, where Ruble’s big feet mean he typically doesn’t get the special-edition shoes issued to the rest of the team, the center uses his large frame and physical nature to his advantage. But he also possesses overlooked shooting and passing skills for his size.

Jones said every college basketball coach with whom he’s spoken has inquired about Ruble. Even lately, despite Ruble making clear his plan to pursue football in college, some basketball coaches are asking about him.

Eventually, that basketball interest will end, and Ruble will make the next step in his development.

“Once he gets to college and football is the only thing that he’s playing, he’s going to become a tremendous and consistent football player,” Brooks said. “He’s never had full season to lift weights. He just doesn’t have the same time to commit to football as some of his other competitors. And when that changes, the sky is the limit for him.”

dfeldman@gazette.net