Pat Ruel, USC
Some guys just aren’t meant to be head coaches.
Some guys are meant to coach at eight colleges.
And for four NFL teams.
Some guys play for Miami.
Way before it was a dynasty.
Some guys are meant to sleep in tents during training camp.
That’s why not all guys can be Pat Ruel.
There’s only one, and as the 57-year-old gets ready to start his fourth season at USC, we should all be jealous. His offensive lines are annually NFL Draft choices in waiting. His recruiting abilities stretch far beyond his position. The guy can’t help it. Everyone he meets turns into a friend and everything he touches turns to … well, there is a reason his given name is Golden Pat Ruel.
Or, the more informal: Golden Ruel.
It’s an old family name. In college football, it’s a household name. Three years ago, Pete Carroll needed an offensive line coach. Not surprisingly, he settled on Ruel. USC would seem like a no-brainer for a career assistant, but Ruel was building quite a resume in the NFL. Carroll had to lure Ruel away from the New York Giants.
Carroll worked all the angles. The two had been assistants together at Arkansas in 1977. USC’s coach used picturesque Manhattan Beach to his advantage, taking his recruit to lunch there on a sun-splashed day.
“Pete’s like a beautiful woman,” Ruel said after taking the job. “The closer you get, you better look out. He is very charismatic. He can smile and make you feel like a million dollars.”
In his first year at USC (2005) all five USC offensive linemen were at least honorable All-Pac selections. Actually, they achieved quite a bit more. Center Ryan Kalil was All-Pac 10. Left guard Deuce Lutui and left tackle Sam Baker were All-Americans. Right guard Fred Matua was drafted by Detroit in 2006. Lutui and right tackle Winston Justice eventually become second-round choices in 2006.
Baker went on to become the third Trojan to become a three-time, first-team All-American in consecutive years. Kalil was an All-American in 2007 and became a Rimington Trophy finalist.
Recently, rivals.com named Ruel one of the best 25 recruiters in the country.
He played for Fran Curci in the 1970s at Miami. That’s UM four coaches before Howard Schnellenberger. His longest stay came at Kansas (1988-96). During that first summer in Lawrence, the staff slept in tents near the practice fields as a show of solidarity. The Jayhawks had to stay together. There weren’t very many of them — 50 or so on scholarship.
Kansas went from 1-10 in 1988 to 10-2 in 1995, finishing in the top 10.
The wanderlust started at an early age. Dad (Pat II) was an FBI agent. Young Pat, then 8, didn’t know that until he discovered a cache of dad’s weapons underneath a floorboard in the family car. The family moved and moved and moved as dad worked counter-espionage in North Carolina, interstate commerce in Texas, organized crime in Chicago.
The son would follow dad’s inherent support of local moving companies. Ruel begins his 35th year as an assistant. USC is his 12th stop. You might say everything is Golden.
“What it did is cause me to have a sense of adventure,” said Pat, the coach. “I was never intimidated by a new environment or new places.”
Five others to consider:
Mike Markuson, Ole Miss: