The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by JuJu Smith-Schuster and the JuJu Foundation.
SAN ANTONIO – Tyson Ruffins was neck deep in his economics homework when he received a call from his mother, Fuaone.
Like any teenager in this situation, Ruffins wasn’t expecting any life altering news, maybe a last-minute chore or question about dinner.
He didn’t realize it was the call.
“She just said, ‘you got into the All American game,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, shoot.’ I don’t know how else to describe it,” said Ruffins with a smile. “It was really casual.”
The Long Beach Poly standout Ruffins still isn’t quite sure how his mother got the news before him.
“She has more connections than I do,” he said with a laugh.
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman joined an impressive fraternity of selections to the All-American Bowl, which has been hosted in San Antonio, Texas since 2002. Ruffins also added to Long Beach Poly’s history of Jackrabbits earning All-American Bowl selections. Ruffins holds the distinction of being the first Long Beach Poly offensive lineman to play in this game.
“It's a great thing for me and my coaches and the coaching staff,” he said of the honor. “Everybody that's put a hand in just making me the player that I am.
“I'm definitely trying to show people that Poly is still a threat,” he said with a grin. “It's been a while since we’ve been able to get back to this stage that we're at right now. And I just want to keep the train moving and get our names out there.”
But Ruffins is unique in a couple other ways, as one of two offensive linemen that was uncommitted going into the game and the only one with just a single Power 5 scholarship offer.
The latter was the single biggest motivation for Ruffins during his time in Texas: prove he is deserving of multiple Power 5 scholarships.
“It's always been like that for me. You always want to bet on yourself and on your own team. And making it out here is definitely a great chance to be able to do that,” said Ruffins. “This national stage. All the big lights are either gonna make or break your career. So I’m trying to make it.”
Ruffins is a three-star prospect in all of the major recruiting services, boasting offers from the likes of Navy, Army, Air Force, Dartmouth, Morgan State, San Jose State and more. Georgia Tech is the lone Power 5 school to offer him. Stanford, Arizona, UCLA and Cal have shown some interest as well.
There were certainly plenty of opportunities to showcase himself as Ruffins went up against a gauntlet of blue-chip defensive linemen, prospects committed to the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Texas A&M and Auburn.
“I definitely like battling against these guys. National talent and, you know, you lose some you win some and the ones you lose you got to learn from,” said Ruffins. “It’s been a great learning experience.”
And Ruffins, who served as the West’s starting guard, held his own in the eyes of his coaches.
“He's really athletic. He's really coachable and he's really diversified. He's able to make adjustments,” said Rick Garretson, the West’s OL coach and the head coach at Chandler High School in Arizona. “And I'm not saying that because I told the kids that once you come here, we understand you're a great football player, right? But being able to adapt and do the things at the speed and the type of people he's playing against. He's been excellent…very good player.”
“He's over-impressed me. I mean, if that's if that's a term. I knew he was a Long Beach Poly kid, and I know, he was a three-year starter. But what he's been able to do out here with the rest of these All Americans has been pretty impressive,” said West head coach Jason Negro, head coach at St. John Bosco in Bellflower. “You gotta give Poly's staff a lot of credit for developing him and getting him to where he should be. He fits right in and he's done a really good job of playing the guard position for us. He's another one that's picked up the schemes really fast. There's no drop off with the seven offensive linemen that are there. He's a little undersized in terms of sawed off a little bit. But that doesn't matter to him. He's coming out here and he's competing against some of the best defensive linemen in the country.”
While the overwhelming majority of his fellow All-Americans carried signed National Letters of Intent to Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, USC, Oregon and many other big programs into the All-American Bowl experience, Ruffins simply carried a “massive” chip on his shoulder.
“It's been a great experience for my high school career in general,” he said. “But I definitely wanted to make more of an impact and get more recognition than I have right now.”
Ruffins and the West came out on the losing end in Saturday’s game, a 55-17 loss to the East, but the Long Beach Poly Jackrabbit showed he was worthy of a bigger football opportunity.
“I’ve got to give him a lot of credit for stepping up into this environment, stepping up into this platform. He's smart. I mean, because he's coming out here and showing that he can compete with these guys,” said Negro. “He's an incredibly intelligent kid. That's the thing that I'm impressed with was how quickly he's able to pick up the offense and things like that. And you know, it's a shame that sometimes Power Five schools go based on height, weight and size and things like that and you have to have the measurables. Ruffin, he can play and I'm a guy that's certainly used to seeing kids play at the next level. But you know, don't let his size fool you because the kid is a Division I Power 5 offensive lineman.”