By Patrick Schuster
*Originally published on Football Dialogue.*
As the leaves slowly start to change in northeastern Pennsylvania, you can listen close on most Friday nights and hear the cheers from local high school football stadiums across the county as students, parents and alumni all gather to root for this year’s teams. One former local football star is my former Dunmore High School classmate and good friend Tim Ruddy, who took what he learned from his parents, family, and teachers to the professional level in the National Football League.
Recently, I had the chance to check in on Tim and see how life has been treating him since his days with the Miami Dolphins ended in 2003.
Patrick Schuster: Since the NFL fans last saw you on a field, what have you been up to?
Tim Ruddy: Currently, I am the CEO of Vista International Technologies, Inc., a small renewable energy company specializing in tire recycling and gasification.
PS: What has been the biggest adjustment since your career ended?
TR: If I get mad at someone, I can’t hit them, or I will go to jail—or worse, be shamed in social media.
PS: What is your fondest memory from your days in college or the NFL?
TR: Tough to pick just one. A lot of the playoff and bowl victories were special. When Notre Dame won the Cotton Bowl in 1994, it was particularly special because we thought we had a shot at the national championship. Instead, it went to Florida State, whom we had beaten head to head a few weeks earlier. I think that scenario was one of the “final straws” that made the NCAA move to the BCS [Bowl Championship Series] system.
PS: Have you had the chance to go back to Notre Dame to see a game?
TR: I went back for the spring game once, but not a regular season game.
PS: What are your thoughts on players like Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Jake Locker and Jason Worlids walking away from the NFL?
TR: To each his own. Everything has risks, football included. You have to make a decision as far as risk versus reward. I believe that some players are much more susceptible to brain injury than others, just as people have different bone structure, muscle density… However, it would seem to me that the time to quit would have been when you were in high school. By the time you get to the NFL, a lot of the damage is already done. In addition, with the lack of two a day practices and the NFL coming down on vicious hits, the NFL is “safer” now than it’s been in years. I don’t think all the science is in yet, either.
PS: As a player who always excelled in the classroom as well as the football field, how were you able to balance school work with your football life during your playing days?
TR: No real secrets. It was a lot of hard work and dedication to both areas, but obviously it can be done. I give a lot of credit to my parents and siblings—and the coaches and teachers I had along the way.
PS: Take me back to your draft day. What is the one memory you have of that day, and what advice would you give any players waiting for that call this spring?
TR: I actually had an engineering project due the next day, so I was working from my dorm room. I didn’t get drafted until almost midnight on the first night, so there was considerable time to wait. As far as advice to a potential draft pick, at that point all the data is in, and the teams have made up their mind on who they like, right or wrong. It’s important to be grateful to be in that position and to enjoy the process.
PS: From the outside now, what would you say has been the biggest change in the NFL since your career ended?
TR: The league has been hollowed out considerably, with teams having a few (10-15) stars, and then trying to fill in the remaining roster spots with lesser, often subpar players, to get under the cap. This started when I was in the league but has gotten worse since I left. Because of this, protecting those “stars” has become priority number one, hence the series of rule changes making most vicious hits illegal.
PS: Knowing you as well I do, I am betting the answer is no, but have you joined the social media world?
TR: No, I don’t do social media. I don’t have the time, and I’m not all that “social” to begin with.
PS: Some former teammates have gotten into broadcasting and coaching. Do you have any thoughts of entering either of those worlds?
TR: Not really, I like coaching kids and helping them learn. As far as broadcasting, I definitely have a face for radio, so that limits my prospects in broadcasting. Although I guess that hasn’t stopped Willie McGinest. (Just kidding there.)
PS: Best advice you ever received during your playing days?
TR: Find a good fight, and get in it.
PS: You were known for your being a workout guy, especially weight lifting. Still hitting the gym and showing the younger guys how it’s done?
TR: I try, but at this point in life, the years are not my friends.
Tim played college at the University of Notre Dame, and his entire NFL career with the Miami Dolphins, but was not satisfied with just sitting around feeling like life was over just because his football days were done. Tim is a prime example of the countless players who have moved on after years in the league to become valued contributing members of society.
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