Former Notre Dame place kicker David Ruffer very much wants an opportunity to compete in the National Football League. He’s yet to hear anything since the conclusion of the 2012 NFL Draft last Saturday, but odds are the 2010 Lou Groza Award finalist will get an invitation to a camp somewhere in the days to come.
If not, he’ll be just fine. With job offers from investment management firms in hand, the Oakton, Va., native, whose foot landed him a walk-on spot in 2008 and eventually a scholarship in 2011, Ruffer’s certainly not in a position where he must pander to the league personnel. In fact, on Notre Dame Pro Day on April 3, one NFL coach was irritated with the amount of time Ruffer took to warm up, asking if they “would be here all day?” Ruffer blew him off and went through his normal routine anyway.
“The companies I’ve been talking to have been extremely generous and gracious with me knowing the situation I’m in,” said Ruffer, who was plucked from the interhall fields during the bye week as a sophomore in 2008. “I’ll give them a call to let them know where I stand. They’ll know when I know and they’re cool with that. I’m lucky considering how tight the [job] market is right now that they’re willing to do that for me.”
Ruffer’s willing to give it a shot this year, but with the opportunities awaiting him in the business world, he admits that it would be difficult to exhibit the same amount of patience as Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould and former Irish kicker John Carney, who kicked around and in and out of the league for over 20 years.
“It will be a little bit tougher for me if I don’t get an opportunity the first time around,” said Ruffer, who took over as a starter for the final seven games in 2009, a position he held through last year. “I want to get started in the next phase of my life, whatever that may be. Because I didn’t grow up playing football, I never thought about it being the only thing I could do for the rest of my life. It will definitely be a tougher decision if I don’t make it in the next year or two because there are these other avenues I can take.”
Ruffer connected on his first 23 career field goal attempts — an Irish record. His first miss was in the 2010 Sun Bowl against Miami and he finished the year 18-for-19. The 18 straight made field goals in that season is also a school record. He converted two FGs of 50 yards, the first to do so since D.J. Fitzpatrick in 2003. In 2002, Ruffer was true on a 52-yarder against Maryland and finished 10-for-16.
On Thursday Ruffer was named to the National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society for maintaining a grade point average of 3.2 or higher throughout his career. He was honored in 2010 as an ESPN Academic All-America First Team member and the recipient of the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award.
His Pro Day performance, he says, only helped his chances of hooking up with an NFL team, whether it’s through rookie free agency or simply an invitation to try out in camp.
“Hopefully I’ll get into a camp and push somebody that’s out there and just try to make the best of it,” said Ruffer, who was cut as a freshman at William & Mary, where he tried to polish his academic resume in order to get into Notre Dame. “There were two kickoffs and two field goals I didn’t like. I had a little pull. Other than that I was pleased.”
As recently as 2010, pursuing a professional career wasn’t even on his mind. But as people began to question Ruffer about his future plans, he figured there was no reason not to give the NFL a try.
“I had a lot of fun in my four years,” he said. “I don’t see why it wouldn’t be fun at the next level. I’ve done so much to this point that it wouldn’t make sense not to try it. If it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out. [Then I’ll be] one of the guys that can’t play in the NFL; I’ll join that club. But I think at the very least it would be a neat experience. I think I’d be kicking myself a few years down the road if I didn’t at least give it a shot.
“It was really this time last year that I realized I was actually good enough. I never really thought about it. I started talking to people and they asked if I was going to try to play in the NFL. I was like, ‘Come on, let’s be serious.’ The more I looked at it looked more realistic and would be worth giving it a shot. Two years ago this was never in my mind. Last year it was just starting to grow and blossom.”
No matter where Ruffer ends up once he leaves Notre Dame in the coming weeks, he still has a hard time wrapping his head around where he’s been.
“Every now and again I’ll take a couple minutes and think about it. It’s tough for me to stay levelheaded if I think about it too often. I reminisce every now and again, but I keep about my business, not worry about the past and see how I can affect my future moving forward.
“I’m going to have to take the walk-on route again.”