Former Camden Star Cesar Ruiz Realizes his Dream of Being a First Round NFL Draft Choice

Former Camden Star Cesar Ruiz Realizes his Dream of Being a First Round NFL Draft Choice
Cesar Ruiz became the latest player with South Jersey ties to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, when the center from Michigan was selected in the first round by the New Orleans Saints, No. 24 overall. Even though Ruiz didn’t graduate from a South Jersey high school, he began his high school career at Camden, where he played for two years.
 
In fact after his sophomore year he was already considered one of the best centers in the country. So much so that IMG Academy, which attracts some of the best players in the country, came calling. Ruiz spent his final two years at IMG Academy before heading off to the Big 10 and Michigan.
 
He was a guard his first season at Michigan but moved to center the last two years, starting 26 consecutive games.
 
Ruiz declared for the NFL draft after his junior season.
 
He joins a Saints team that is considered a Super Bowl contender. In a conference call with reporters, Saints coach Sean Payton said he hasn’t talked to Ruiz yet about moving to guard or staying at center.
 
“No, we just drafted them, told him he's coming to the Saints to play off offensive line and then we'll let it sort out,” Payton said.
 
It was an emotional time for Ruiz, who was measured at 6-foot-3 and 307-pounds at the NFL combine. The first person he thought of when he was drafted was his late father, who was killed when Cesar was 8-years-old after being struck by a car while helping to fix a flat tire for a motorist.
 
“Yeah, that's what I was thinking about, just my dad,” Ruiz said on draft night in quotes that the Saints distributed. “I dedicate my whole journey and everything I do to him. The first picture I had in my head was my dad and then I looked on the screen and they put a picture of my dad on the screen. That's really where all of them emotion came from and a big part of it was also just the excitement and the relief.”
 
Besides being a first-round pick, Ruiz will get to play with Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a sure-fire future Hall of Famer.
 
“The first thing that comes to mind is Drew Brees really,” Ruiz said when asked what comes to mind when thinking of the Saints. “When I think of the Saints, the first thing I think of, the first person I think of is Drew Brees. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of the Saints and really just a traditional team. A team that traditionally wins and is a very respected franchise.”
 
Besides his physical strength, Ruiz felt he made an impression on the Saints with his football IQ.
 
“They had me watch film and gave me calls and allowed me to take notes. It was basically as if it was my first day with the team and I was able to reiterate plays really easy. I think that’s one thing they are impressed with.”
 
Impressed enough to make him part of an elite group, one of 32 NFL first round draft choices.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo courtesy of University of Michigan

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