Northern Star: Reagan Ruffi and Brody Payton
For this week's segment, we feature two Northwestern alums and rookies on the UMD football team who are excited to go through this experience together.
DULUTH, Minn. – The UMD football team is officially one week into the 2019 season.
“I am pumped to be here. I’ve been wishing away my summer to be here and I’m pretty excited,” freshman running back Reagan Ruffi said.
Fall practice allows the whole team to come together and is crucial for the freshmen and newcomers to learn the plays and get adjusted to Bulldog football.
“This is a very tough week for our freshmen, our incoming guys, to be away from home for the first time, to be going through meetings with upper classmen that have been through this before, and just the pressures of being away from home, it’s a tough week. We do our best to make sure the guys are integrated with our team,” UMD football head coach Curt Wiese said.
But the transition process is a little easier for freshman running back Reagan Ruffi and defensive back Brody Payton who grew up together in Maple, Wisconsin, played together at Northwestern High School, and now call UMD home.
“I had some great success my senior year making it to the third round, and it was an opportunity that opened and I took it,” Payton said.
“It was really my first decision, I knew I wanted to come here from the get-go. When I finally got my offer, I knew it was the right one and it was an easy decision,” Ruffi added.
Ruffi commited to UMD the July before his senior year while Payton decided to be a Bulldog in January.
“I was kind of worried about not knowing anybody coming up here, so when I saw that he decided to come up here, it got me pretty excited. He’s my roommate,” Ruffi said of Payton.
“We’ve always been good friends and close buddies so it kind of helps me get into the transition of things better,” Payton said of his and Ruffi’s friendship.
“They’ve played this sport since the time they were in third grade, up through high school together, and now into college. It’s a special situation when you get to go play college football with someone you’ve played with since elementary school,” Northwestern football head coach Jovin Kroll said.
Payton and Ruffi are continuing the tradition of Northland kids going to UMD, including junior linebacker and Northwestern alum Nate Pearson.
“Nate Perason set a great example for those guys. When they were freshmen, he was the senior. Then he went on to UMD and now they’re able to follow in his footsteps,” Kroll said.
“We want to make sure anybody in our area can become a Bulldog if they can compete for us. You look at Reagan, you look at Brody, we’re excited to have them part of our football program, those guys were excited to be apart of our football program a year and a half ago when we first started talking to them. So that’s important for us to take care of the local talent,” Wiese added.
With the first week of practice in the books, these Tigers turned Bulldogs are just working to learn a lot and get better every day.
“They’re two totally different offenses, which takes time for me to learn because I never took a read option before,” Ruffi said of UMD’s offense.
“It’s a lot different than I thought. I was with my position group and I was focused on one thing so I like that a lot better,” Payton said of UMD’s practices.
While they have a long way to go, the coaches can see the potential in the two and are looking forward to what they can do in a Bulldog uniform.
“Reagan is a guy that will put the time in. He’s willing to stay a little longer, ask questions, mentally he’s picking up the game so that’s really good to see,” UMD running backs coach Jason Balts said.
“Brody, he’s a tall, lengthy guy who’s interesting. He’s one of those guys that’s eager to learn and he’s got some good motivation to him. He’s one of those kids where it wasn’t much of an awe moment for him just because he knew the guys from the summer, he grew up around here, coming to the games, so he knows what Minnesota Duluth football is all about,” UMD defensive secondary coach Marcus McLin said.
While fall camp and their Bulldog careers continue, Ruffi and Payton are just excited to get started, and mostly, to be here together.
“We’re in it together. And that’s the whole team, we’re all in it together,” Payton said.