When asked how he would describe his playing style, Glendale High senior Luis Ruiz took a step back to consider his choice of adjectives.
Before defining his game, Ruiz first identified the best attributes of his football teammates.
Ruiz labeled fellow running back Daniel Jung as “game-breaking,” linebacker Abraham Martinez a “playmaker,” wide receiver Ricky Loudermill “the deep threat” and quarterback Julian Rovira “the leader.”
Finally after some head-scratching and soul searching, Ruiz settled on an answer.
“I guess I would call myself the workhorse,” said the 5-foot-8, 165-pound running back who also plays free safety. “I’m really not going to break many big runs, but I’m going to give you the hard yards. When you need a yard, I’ll get it.”
Glendale finished 4-6 last season and sixth within the Pacific League.
While Jung turned in several electric plays on offense and defense, Ruiz contributed the steady little efforts than can easily be overlooked.
Ruiz finished as the team’s second-leading rusher, tallying 590 yards on 91 carries (6.48 yards-per-carry average) with four touchdowns.
On defense, Ruiz was No. 2 in tackles with 62, while he led the squad in tackles for loss (six) and contributed two caused fumbles, one interception and one fumble recovery.
“He’s not the biggest guy on this team, but you’ll see him all over the field,” Glendale third-year Coach John Tuttle said. “He’ll make a key tackle on one drive and then come back on offense and pick up a third and one. He’s just one of those hard-working players you want on your team.”
At a recent practice, Ruiz showcased his ability to learn from criticism.
As the senior incorrectly lined up for a defensive drill, he received an earful from a position coach, informing Ruiz of his gaffe.
The youngster calmly moved into the correct spot and batted away a pass attempt from Rovira.
On the very next play, Loudermill also lined up incorrectly and was in line to receive a similar tongue-lashing before Ruiz acted.
The senior calmly pointed to Loudermill, told the junior where he was supposed to have been standing and the flow of practice continued without incident.
“It’s great to play with Luis, he’s just a great teammate,” Loudermill said. “He knows where he’s supposed to be, he knows where other guys are supposed to be. He knows what’s going on.”
As the Nitros prepare for Friday’s season opener at San Gabriel, the squad and Tuttle can only hope for a similar effort from Ruiz when the two teams previously matched up.
Last season, the two-way player put together a solid effort, as Ruiz carried the ball four times for 76 yards and a touchdown, while he tallied eight tackles (one for a loss) in 41-3 victory over the Matadors.
On that night, though, the accolades went to Jung, who was brilliant in rushing for 220 yards and three scores on 13 carries, with a game-opening 86-yard score sprung thanks in part to a key block from Ruiz.
“We really complement each other,” Ruiz said of Jung. “He’s going to make the big plays and I’m the guy who’s going to get three yards here and four yards there.”
On a 40-man roster, Tuttle sees the value in a player who can fill a few positions and serve multiple roles.
“That’s the thing about Luis, he does his job, he does what’s asked of him,” Tuttle said. “It’s easy, especially in high school, to want to make a big play and go out and try to do something you’re not supposed to. Luis understands that it’s more important to do your job. That’s what we expect of him.”
Going into this season, Ruiz is aware of his most important role.
“I’ve got to be a leader,” Ruiz said. “We can be a good team if we work hard and eliminate mistakes. I want to be one of those guys that sets [the tone]. I know I have to do my job and just be a workhorse.”