BOWLING GREEN - Ruben Ruiz likes to use his hands. His favorite hobby is carpentry, and he spent his summer crafting woodwork for a local church.
"I can make pretty much anything for you," said Ruiz, a senior wide receiver for Bowling Green State University.
So far in Ruiz's short football career, the hands he's spent years sculpting with are paying off.
After moving from tight end midway through last season, Ruiz has found comfort at receiver. He's second on the Falcons with 160 receiving yards and has 13 catches, including two for touchdowns. Halfway through BGSU's season he's had nearly as much production as last year.
"Ruben did some nice things on Saturday [against Ohio State]," BGSU coach Gregg Brandon said. "He caught a ball in the middle and then stiff-armed a guy and ran over a guy. He looked like a guy who was playing with the big boys."
A junior-college transfer, Ruiz has had to adapt quickly to change throughout his life. Ruiz grew up in Obregon Sonora, Mexico, and moved to South Tucson, Ariz., when he was 9 years old. He had to learn a new language, but still played baseball and later basketball in his spare time.
Ruiz loved basketball and wanted to play in college. But when he tried football for the first time his senior year of high school, coaches at Arizona Western Community College saw the superb blocking ability of the 6-foot-4, 236-pounder. Blocking was about all he got to showcase during his junior college days.
"Those two years that I played, they threw it to me three or four times," Ruiz said. "We used to throw the ball once or twice a game. People used to bring a sign saying "Throw the ball." It was funny."
As Ruiz was looking for a place to play Division-I ball, he was also settling into family life. Four years ago Ruiz and his wife, Rebecca, had a daughter, Isabel. Ruiz initially traveled to BGSU alone, but has since brought his family to Bowling Green.
BGSU coaches didn't have much film on Ruiz, but seeing him in person showed them he could be an asset at receiver.
"When he got here, we saw how well he moved in space and caught the ball with his big body that we ended up putting him out there," Brandon said. "We didn't get a chance to redshirt him. The time he will get really good is when he is about to graduate."
Last season Ruiz made 11 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns. In the triple-overtime win over Buffalo earlier this year, Ruiz had two TD receptions - one to tie the game with 1 1/2 minutes left, and one for the win in the third OT.
"When I switched, I didn't know what I was doing. I was just going out there," Ruiz said. "It's a big difference now, I understand our offense a lot more, and coach Z [receivers coach Zach Azzanni] is doing a great job helping me."
Although he's relaxed at receiver, more challenges have arrived. On Sept. 30, the day of the Ohio game, Rebecca gave birth to their second child, Ruben Isac. Ruiz was with the team then, but has had extra responsibility since his son was born because his wife has been ill.
Ruiz has also been busy because his family from Mexico is in the U.S. for three weeks, watching his games on weekends and touring the eastern part of the country during the week.
On Saturday he made eye contact with his family as the team was about to run out on the field at Ohio Stadium before the game.
"They were just so happy," Ruiz said. "I saw the pictures, my mom was crying, and I was shocked my brother was crying too. They hadn't seen me in a while. They were really excited to see me, and all the stuff that I have worked to accomplish."
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