Although he was away from Ohio State this spring, Noah Ruggles always planned to return for another season with the Buckeyes.
Instead of going through practices and classes like the rest of the Buckeyes this spring, Ruggles spent the semester in his hometown of Tampa and traveling around the country. He didn’t actually need to take classes this spring – he’s still on track to get a master’s degree from Ohio State this fall – and his decision to take some time away came with the approval of Ryan Day, who signed off on the plan when Ruggles made the decision to use his additional year of eligibility.
In his first media interview since returning to Ohio State this summer, Ruggles didn’t want to elaborate too much on why he took the semester off. But he said he was anxious to get back to Columbus by the time the spring was over.
“I'm just happy to be back here now, honestly. I was itching to get back,” Ruggles said Friday during the Special Skills Football Invitational. “We had a week off the other week, and I found myself, I was back at home in Tampa and I found myself just wanting to get back here with the guys, honestly.
“This feels like home and I was welcomed back with open arms. This place is so special. And it's just a family here. I mean, a lot of places talk about family but this place, it's unreal. It's unbelievable. I don’t think there’s anything like it.”
While Ruggles wasn’t practicing with the team this spring, that doesn’t mean he stopped working at his craft. Even when he was traveling, he found somewhere he could kick – regardless of whether he actually had permission to kick there.
“With kicking, you can kind of make anywhere your office, so when I was traveling, I could find a field with a light pole or something to aim at if there weren't any uprights or no access to a football field. I got kicked out of a couple a time or two,” Ruggles said with a laugh. “But yeah, at the end of the day, you find a place to get the work in.”
Out of all the players on Ohio State’s roster, Ruggles may have been the one who could most afford to miss spring practices. After all, Ruggles was nearly perfect on field goals in his first season as Ohio State’s kicker, making 20 of his 21 attempts – and he didn’t participate in spring practices that year either, as he didn’t make his decision to transfer to Ohio State from North Carolina until last summer.
Even so, Ruggles could face competition for his job in preseason camp. Ohio State added another kicker this offseason with Parker Lewis’ transfer from USC, bringing the Buckeyes to three scholarship kickers with Jake Seibert also on the roster. Ruggles said the competition doesn’t bother him.
“It's always been the same mindset to me. Any day, anybody can take your job, it doesn't matter. If they're kicking better than me, then they should be on the field,” Ruggles said. “So when we go into fall camp and competition stuff, obviously you got to stay humble and stay focused. Like I did last year, I don't really worry about the competition, I worry about myself and focus on what I can control. And that's kind of how you go about it.”
Ruggles didn’t have to return to Ohio State for another year. He’s already been in college for five years, and considering how efficient he was last year, he surely would have gotten at least a look from NFL teams if he had entered this year’s draft. He enjoyed his first year with the Buckeyes so much, however, that he didn’t want it to be his last.
“I've made some great relationships here with the teammates and the coaches, and obviously I wasn't ready to say goodbye to that just yet,” Ruggles said. “This past year, it changed my life. Obviously, Coach Day giving me the opportunity to come here changed my life. And I feel like I need to just keep putting forward my best effort. And obviously another good year under my belt will help with the NFL stuff as well. That is the goal at the end of the day, but I'm focused on this team and getting our goals accomplished right now.”
“This place, it's unreal. It's unbelievable. I don’t think there’s anything like it.”– Noah Ruggles on Ohio State
There’s stability for Ruggles in returning to Ohio State for one more year, especially since Jesse Mirco is back as his holder and Bradley Robinson is back as his long snapper. Spending one more year with them is another reason why Ruggles came back.
“We have a great relationship on and off the field. We've always on the golf course together and stuff,” Ruggles said. “The relationships I have with those guys and getting to come in and work with them every day and get better together as a group, I think that's awesome.”
There is one thing that’s changed for Ruggles since last year, though. Instead of having his hair cut short like he did in his first year at Ohio State, Ruggles is now sporting a mullet, as seen in his new headshot on Ohio State’s roster page.
Important journalism: I asked Noah Ruggles to show us his new mullet. pic.twitter.com/ZxdoEr3Tov— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) July 22, 2022
Ohio States updated roster also features new headshots of each player, including a mulleted Noah Ruggles: pic.twitter.com/jPTJRH9os9— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) July 19, 2022
Why did Ruggles decide to change his look? He says he’s “just changing things up, having a little fun.”
“Honestly, I hate getting haircuts,” Ruggles said. “And so I got to a point where I kept growing my hair out just as a whole and it just started looking really bad. And I was like, if I could do that, shave the sides, worry about less so it's business in the front. Now I don't have to worry about what's in the back because it just looks good up front.”