To the Editor,
As a kid growing up in Lumberton and being a part of Lumberton High’s 1986 Southeastern 4A Conference Championship team, there were many life lessons learned on the gridiron. For me, never fulfilling that dream to play at the collegiate level, I have grown to realize that although football was my first love, I now have more love in my life than I could ever have imagined.
When I first met Coach Mc — now referred to as Coach Ruff here in East Carolina Pirate country — coming from a life where I was born in Alabama and raised to be a big Tide fan, I never realized that there was much of anything to life past the game of football. That is until I got to know the McNeills, Ruffin Sr. (known as Mr Mc in his teaching days) and his son Ruffin Jr (known as Coach Mc during his coaching days at LHS). Mr Mc is a retired teacher in Lumberton and always taught respect, love, and appreciation to his students, and especially his son, Ruffin Jr.
Leading 110 percent by example is something that Ruffin Sr. instilled in his son from an early age, and it shows in Coach Ruff’s tireless efforts with the love he has for his ECU players, family, the Pirate Nation, and his faith. From that very first day that I met Coach at a football camp at Lumberton HS in 1984, I will never forget the young coach who walked up to me and my brother and said he would be our daddy now. Growing up without my father around, I knew then that this man was the real-deal and that he wanted to be more than just another coach.
Fast forward 30 years later. Since I moved back here to Greenville 15 years ago, I have been able to attend various practices with Coach Ruff, community events, football games, etc., and have had the pleasure for the past four years of being able to watch him interact with his players, our community, and the Pirate Nation. The authentic love and care that Coach Ruff exudes has been a huge influence in my life as a husband and father of a 2-year-old daughter. Coach Ruff has shown me that a simple hug can go along way.