Worth the wait: Panther’s tight end Joel Ruiz draws from past experiences and family values

Tight end, Joel Ruiz, is looking to come back from his injury healthy and ready to give his all. PHOTO BY RALPH HERNANDEZ| THE SIGNAL
Tight end, Joel Ruiz, is looking to come back from his injury healthy and ready to give his all.  PHOTO BY RALPH HERNANDEZ| THE SIGNAL
Tight end, Joel Ruiz, is looking to come back from his injury healthy and ready to give his all.

The years leading up to Joel Ruiz joining the Panthers may have helped him transition to the physically demanding position of tight end that he holds today.

Ruiz thinks there are some physical challenges that he has fought through to become a tight end, but his years as a quarterback have helped him mentally.

Ruiz, who is 6 feet 4 inches and 240 pounds, has 15 receptions with 223 receiving yards and two touchdowns in three games this season.

His pair touchdowns place him second on the team in touchdown receptions. Ruiz missed Georgia State’s fourth game of the season with an injury when the team faced Washington last week.

Ruiz does see he has some advantages that most tight ends may not possess in addition to his height, weight and separation speed. He still thinks like a quarterback and looks at the offense as an entire unit finding where he fits into the entire scheme.

However, the learning curve from quarterback to tight end was something Ruiz had to deal with.

“It was really tough at first,” Ruiz said. “Because as quarterbacks, we don’t get touched at practice… And going to tight end where you’ve got to be a big guy, you’ve got to block, be physical and run routes.”

Under the coaching styles of Jeff Herron while at Georgia High School, Ruiz won back to back state championships at Camden County in 2008 and 2009.

Ruiz’s assent into the playmaker of today may have been aided by a year he had to sit out. He got to go through the mental repetitions while adding strength and size.

The two-year wait to return to game action was well worth it for both Ruiz and the Panthers offense. Ruiz is a transfer from Presbyterian College and due to NCAA rules, he had to sit out for one full season.

Ruiz played a pair of seasons at Presbyterian and totaled 16 receptions for 200-yards along with 50 rushing yards and one touchdown in 21 games, but he says he was not happy there since he was not receiving significant playing time.

In 2013, Ruiz left Presbyterian in pursuit of more field time and a return to his home state as a native of Kingsland, Ga.

“It’s just been so much support,” he said. “Having your family there is the biggest thing for me. Having that to fall back on when I’m feeling down. You can always have your family to not only be there through a text or phone call but to be there in person. I think that was the biggest thing for me.”

To Ruiz, family is important. He credits his father with pushing him into football as a child and motivating him to strive for long term successes such as a good quality of life for his future family.

“My dad’s just a very hard working man. He grew up in a very poor neighborhood, has worked his way up and has nice things now,” Ruiz said. “That’s something that sparked something in me that I want to do the same thing when I get older. Work really hard and be able to enjoy my life when I get older as well as being able to provide for a family when I reach that age.”

Ruiz’s father is a retired Navy officer and uses the military environment he grew up with on and off the field.

He feels that his father’s Navy experience has allowed him to grow up and respect authority, have discipline and remain a solid citizen as well as a good football player.

Obviously, we place importance on respecting authority. That was instilled in my dad when he was in the military which trickled down to me,” Ruiz said of the influence of having a military upbringing.

The journey through his upbringing, his high school experiences, his time at Presbyterian and his position transition have molded Ruiz into the promising playmaker that Georgia State fans and the college football nation will enjoy.

The Panthers just came off of a bye week last week. Ruiz and the team will be back in action Oct. 4 as they clash with Sun Belt foe Louisiana-Lafayette.