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football; 49-year-old college football; pep talks

49-year-old college football player gives great pep talks.

Sometimes we talk ourselves out of our dreams and convince ourselves that we can't do that thing because of kids, age, not enough time or some other reason. But what happens when we just go for the dream we want instead of thinking of excuses to avoid the commitment? That's exactly what 49-year-old Ray Ruschel did, and his teammates are glad he didn't think he was too old to try. Ruschel, a student at North Dakota State College of Science, decided to try out for the college football team even though he hadn't played the sport since his senior year of high school.


The backup defensive lineman is old enough to be the dad of his teammates, and that additional life experience has come in handy for the team. It's easy to get discouraged or frustrated after a loss, and typically coaches are the ones giving the pep talk or calling out all the areas the team went wrong. But pep talks seem to be something Ruschel is really good at. When the team lost to a rival college, Ruschel stepped in to tell the team they weren't failing by losing one game and they still had the rest of the season to qualify to make it to the playoffs.

The middle-aged lineman wasn't always a motivational speaker to football teams. He spent nearly 20 years in the Army National Guard as well as working nights at a sugar beet factory before deciding to return to school. The school is a two-year college that offers degrees in skilled trades and healthcare, among other things. The decision to return to college would not only allow him a change to move up in his career field, but it unexpectedly gave him another chance at playing college football.

Ruschel told the AP that once he found out his college didn't have an age limit for school sports, “Something just clicked in my head, like why not play?” The coach of the football team is one year younger than Ruschel and explained to the AP that the older player is "just a really likable guy with an ambition not to leave any stone unturned. As long as he’s here on this earth.”

When you're over a certain age demographic, taking risks to chase after dreams can be terrifying but Ruschel is proving that it can be worth the risk. You're never too old to go after things you want in life and with your lived experience comes a level of wisdom that you likely wouldn't have had earlier in life.

The response to Ruschel playing football with teenagers and young adults more than half his age was one of acceptance. He told KVLY, “They’ve all been very receptive of me coming in and playing. At first, they thought I was another football coach on our first day of camp. And whenever I got in line for pads, they were like ‘wait a minute, you’re playing?’”

Ruschel explained to KVLY, “I’m having a blast playing. Out here with these young kids and actually being able to keep up! I surprise myself.” Just that sentence alone should be enough to get you to go for a dream you've been putting off. The lineman is proving not just to be an encouragement to his teammates but to people everywhere.

All photos courtesy of Albertsons
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