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Forty-Nine-Year-Old College Freshman Straps on the Pads

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

As a man of a certain age, I love seeing older athletes compete. Tom Brady, the recently retired Roger Federer, the Williams sister, even Mike Tyson. There’s something about seeing older folks mix it up that just kind of get me jacked. Probably because while the body fails us eventually, that competitive fire rarely goes out. If you have an unhealthy competitive streak like me, it always burns. Sadly, so do my joints sometimes.

I take care of myself and exercise regularly, but sometimes things still hurt for no apparent reason. Sometimes for very apparent reasons, like when I try to play USTA tennis against kids half my age, or I mix it up playing hoops with my kids. However, beer league softball, pickup basketball and tennis aren’t football. I never played organized football, but family members have, and I vividly remember the bruises, sprains, strains and breaks incurred in middle and high school. Playing with kids is one thing, football at the college level has to be brutal. Don’t tell that to Ray Ruschel though. the 49-year-old college freshman and nose tackle is my new hero. Check this out from The Blaze:

Ray Ruschel, 49, is a 17-year veteran of the North Dakota National Guard who recently decided to take on a new challenge: playing college football.

Ruschel plays nose guard for the Wildcats of North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, North Dakota, about an hour south of Fargo.

That friends, is the definition of bad ass. Forty-nine years old and chasing his dream of playing college football. The nose guard is usually the biggest dude on the field, but also does about the least amount of actual chasing and running. Speed is not required. Trust me, speed and lateral quickness is what goes first.

Ruschel says he’s not at all intimidated by playing with young men less than half his age.

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“So, I’ve been surrounded by young people throughout my military career,” Ruschel said. “So on and off the field, these guys are really, truly tremendous. I try and instill being punctual, being awake, just doing my hardest. Working to strive to do my best every day at practice and also during games.”

I wouldn’t be intimidated either per se, but it has to be difficult matching the level of intensity of a bunch of kids that still have all of their testosterone.

Ruschel is setting an example for these kids. By modeling good habits and positive energy, he is showing them that even at age 49, you can still live a full life and chase your dreams.

“I want to live life,” he added. “If I had the chance and didn’t take it, I would regret it. I had a chance, and I’m taking it, and I’m living life to the fullest.”

Ruschel, a 6-foot, 220-lb. true freshman out of Trinity High School, has already recorded one solo tackle and one assist in the young season.

The fact that Ruschel is getting snaps and actually playing is nothing short of legendary. Yes, it’s a very small school, but those can be some very large young men.

Guys like Ray Ruschel set an example for kids, and inspire older people to go for it, no matter your age. I might not try football, but I will be hitting the courts again first chance I get.