Fike junior Noel Ruiz, who will play in the 69th annual East-West All-Star Game in Greensboro next week, (35) kicks a 49-yard field goal out of the hold of Carter Searcy during the Golden Demons' first game of the season Aug. 19, 2016 The kick tied the school record held by Lee Gliarmis against Beddingfield in 1981.Scott Jones | Special to the Times
By Paul Durham
While his appearance in the North Carolina Coaches Association’s 69th East-West All-Star Game next week in Greensboro will be recent Fike High graduate Noel Ruiz’s last as a high school football player, he’s already a college student.
Ruiz, who is the lone kicker for the East squad, has already enrolled in summer school at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, where he has begun preparations to kick for the NCAA Division I Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Aggies next season.
Thus, Ruiz is thankful for this one last chance to play as a high schooler.
“That’s exactly the way I’m looking at it,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week during a break from classes. “In my English class, I wrote about how I’m thankful to get one more game in my high school career.”
Ruiz is the only player from Wilson or even The Wilson Times coverage area that earned a spot on the East roster.
“I feel honored that I’m the only one picked,” he said. “I think I definitely deserve it because I worked hard in the offseason and it showed last season.”
He emerged as a potential collegiate kicker over the summer in 2016 after kicking no field goals as a junior at Fike the previous fall. Ruiz attended Chris Sailer Kicking camps and picked up a national ranking as high as No. 4. However, he really found his way onto the radar of college recruiters in the Golden Demons’ first game of 2016 when he tied a school record by nailing a 49-yard field goal to end the first half against Bunn.
Ruiz said that after a winter of weight training and endless practice, he’s confident he could make a 60-yarder during a game.
“I’m positive I could hit from 60 in a game. Whether I’ll get that chance, I don’t know,” he said. “In the fall, I was kicking it about 55 and in.”
He said that it’s just a matter of having the opportunity as well as the coach’s confidence to let him try it, something he had at Fike under Tom Nelson.
“If we had more opportunities, Coach Nelson would have definitely given me a chance at a 50-yarder,” Ruiz said.
He said that he believes the A&T kickoff and place-kicking jobs for the upcoming season are his to lose but he hopes to get a chance to punt as well.
“I’ve been punting really well,” he said. “I’ll be competing for all three spots come the fall.”
Ruiz said that so far he has loved the college life, even though it’s not been an easy transition with daily morning workouts and then four hours of class, study hall and additional weight-lifting and conditioning.
“It’s a lot of work being a college athlete. I didn’t realize it was going to be that much work,” he admitted.
Ruiz, along with five other future Aggies, will temporarily vacate their summer residence at A&T and move into the hotel with the other East-West All-Star athletes next week. Three of his A&T teammates will also be on the East squad.
The teams will have several workouts before Wednesday’s game in Jamieson Stadium on the campus of Grimsley High in Greensboro.
It’s that one last game to wear his Fike helmet. Ruiz said he’s gained even more appreciation for his time as a high school football player.
“I learned to enjoy it. It actually went really, really fast,” he said.