The plays were scripted. And the second call was set to be a long ball to the stud receiver, who’d surely be open. The design worked all the time in practice.
The quarterback had just one request for his I-back: Please don’t score on the first play.
Barrett Ruud didn’t play along. The senior at Lincoln Southeast took his first handoff in a game against Kearney to the house, spoiling Nick Bahe’s chance at connecting downfield with Alex Gordon. Ruud apologized to Bahe after celebrating the score. Then he laughed.
But that was sort of how it went during Ruud’s senior year.
"Nothing will knock the cool out of you as a quarterback than when it’s like third-and-11, and we’re handing the ball to Barrett," Bahe said. "And then he would go get it."
The remarkable part of Ruud’s high school dominance: He didn’t even leave his mark as a running back. His legacy was defined by his ability to take down ball carriers.
He’s Nebraska’s all-time leading tackler with 432 stops. As a senior captain in 2004, he was a third-third All-American, a first-team All-Big 12 performer and NU’s defensive MVP. He was selected in the second round of the NFL draft. Ruud played eight NFL seasons, leading Tampa Bay in tackles for four of those.
But don’t let those accomplishments take away from Ruud’s performances at Lincoln Southeast.
Said his former coach, Chuck Mizerski: "Barrett’s the best high school player I’ve ever seen."
Lincoln Southeast went 48-2 during Ruud’s high school career, winning three state titles. Ruud left as the school’s all-time leading rusher, scorer and tackler.
Related link: Knowledge was power for Ruud
Played for: Lincoln Southeast, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Alex Gordon. Why? Said Ruud: "It’s those times in football practice where somebody’d throw a pass that was way off target and he could make it look like a groundball going to third base — where it’s just zero effort to make a really hard catch. Some guys just have that gift."
Best moment as an athlete: Ruud says the 2008 season was his “best year of overall football.” But if he had to zero in on one specific game as an individual, he points to a 9-0 state playoff win over Papillion-La Vista.
Early sign of greatness: He says he didn’t feel comfortable watching game film of himself until his fourth year in the NFL. That was 2008. Until then, the perfectionist inside of Ruud couldn’t get past his own flaws.