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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rutgers' Ruhann Peele's journey begins at Fresno State

Ruhann Peele will appear in his first game with Rutgers tonight. A few plays could determine if he sees more time. (Tyler Barto) 

The first installment of a season-long look following redshirt freshman Ruhann Peele

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

PISCATAWAY — The last few nights for Ruhann Peele have gone like this: tossing and turning in his on-campus bed, thinking about Rutgers' offense and occasionally pulling out his team-issued iPad for mental fuel.

After redshirting in 2012, Peele hasn't played in a football game in nearly two years. The final evenings have taken their toll.

"Last week, it was like a little kid on Christmas," Peele said Monday. "I've never been so ready for something in my life."

It will crystallize tonight in Fresno, Calif., where Rutgers' season opens on the earliest date in school history. Of the Scarlet Knights' 111 listed players, Peele will be one of about a third of them to see the field, largely in a third-down and special teams role, he figures.

One or two plays can alter the course of a game. Peele's ability to impact them in the few times coordinator Ron Prince calls on him will determine if he sticks. Others wait in the wings.

["Last week, it was like a little kid on Christmas. I've never been so ready for something in my life."]

Peele has waded through arguably Rutgers' deepest position, outlasting an 18-day training camp, injuries and only last week, former teammate Miles Shuler's transfer. Sixty minutes at Bulldog Stadium await him.

RELATED: Miles Shuler transfers from Rutgers

"Throughout the day, (I'm) watching film, still thinking about the game and making plays," Peele said. "I go home. We have the plays on our iPads, so you can watch how the 'backer plays, watch how the safety plays and the way they rotate and the way they blitz. I'm real prepared for them and everything they're going to do."


Each morning begins in the Silvers Apartment he shares with Brandon Arcidiacono, Desmon Peoples and Jevon Tyree, all members of Rutgers' 2012 recruiting class. That list will change when the school year begins next week and Rutgers' housing assignments become permanent.

Peele says he's never picked his roommates. His newest ones will notice the the shrines to sports and music on his walls, covered with Rutgers and Bob Marley flags and a poster of Malcolm X.

MORE: The education of Ruhann Peele

Several wide receivers, including Leonte Carroo (4), will vie for a significant number of targets in 2013. 
(Tyler Barto)

His mother, Diane Rollins, lives only a few minutes away, where she doubles between Piscataway and Peele's native Linden. Two brothers, a grandmother and an uncle stay with her in Linden. Peele's sister recently moved to Europe with her father.

He says he wants to major in criminal justice, in part because of his fascination with autopsies, one he developed growing up in one of Union County's toughest towns.

"One of my favorite shows used to be CSI: Miami," Peele said. "I used to love when they used to break the body up and see what happened and how they figure things out. I always used to watch that show. I figured if I can't do that, I'd be a detective and come close to it."


While Peele's first game may be sacred ground, the team's Hale Center has become a sanctuary.

He arrives early in the morning, receiving treatment, vaulting into an ice tub and stretching. He tracks down receivers coach Matt Simon asking questions "for every little thing, even if I know."

MORE: Ruhann Peele sounds off

His behind-the-scenes work, combined with a healthy training camp, has been Peele's biggest ally.
Peele as a high school senior. (Jason Towlen/
My Central
It is a far cry from 2008, Peele's first season playing organized football at Linden High School. His play gained traction as a junior and then later at a Rivals showcase in Oakland, N.J., where he earned top receiver honors in a field that included future teammate Carlton Agudosi.

But offers never came. He received a few hand-written letters from prominent coaches, the extent of his recruitment. Instead, he became Rutgers' first commit on Jan. 20, 2012, later donning a customized hat on signing day that reads, 'RU-hann.'

"Didn't really realize I had a chance of being recruited," Peele said. "When I started getting recruited and my coach told me about Rutgers, I was like sold on it, like, 'Wow, I really have a chance to go to school for free to play football at a Division-I level.' It was enough experience for me right there."

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