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CadillacPower24_2006

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: October 02, 2006, 02:29:36 PM

Barrett Ruud stretched out on the artificial turf of the Metrodome in Minneapolis, warming up before his first NFL game.

The Bucs rookie linebacker's eyes began to wander as he took in his surroundings. Soon they settled on a petite brunette standing on the sideline. She looked awfully familiar.

With a little bit of embarrassment, Ruud realized it was his mother.

"I was like, 'What is this? How did she get on the sideline?'" Ruud said. "Next thing I know, she's walking up talking to [defensive coordinator] Monte [Kiffin]."

Jaime Ruud wanted to see her son's debut up close and personal, and got a sideline pass.

"She figured a mother's supposed to do that," said Ruud's father, Tom.

Ruud is back in Lincoln, Neb., this weekend spending time with his family, minus one very important member.

Jaime Ruud, a registered dietitian and sports nutrition consultant who wrote the book "Nutrition and the Female Athlete," died June 30 after suffering a heart attack. She was 52.

The family was on vacation in Minnesota, an annual outing and Ruud's final bit of down time before training camp was to open in July, when Jaime died.

"I think the hardest part is the unexpected," Tom Ruud said. "When you bury somebody you love, it's difficult, but the unexpected …"
Always There For Him

The day before he flew back to Nebraska, Ruud lost his wallet. He'd never done that and was frantic looking for it. It's the kind of thing for which his mother would have been a big help.

"I talked to her about basically everything but football," Ruud said. "If I had any kind of problems, like if my computer broke down or if I needed to cook something or if my TV wasn't working, anything that wasn't football, I was on the phone to her."

Ruud was a self-described "disaster" when he arrived in Tampa last year. It was his first time on his own, without the nearby resources of the University of Nebraska or his family.

That's when the daily phones calls to Mom became a necessity.

"Everything from what kind of silverware I needed to get, to opening a can opener, it was pathetic for a while," Ruud said. "She'd send me a recipe, but I'd sit there and look at it and didn't get it.

"She walked me through everything."

Ruud isn't the only Bucs player who lost his mother suddenly this past offseason. Rookie wide receiver Maurice Stovall and veteran receiver Ike Hilliard had to deal with their mothers succumbing to cancer.

Last year, in the middle of training camp, Anthony McFarland's mother died at age 50 from a heart attack.

"All we do is love them up. The players know when someone needs a hug," General Manager Bruce Allen said. "It's a family. It's not a cliche. When [Barrett's] dad came to training camp, it wasn't just one person who hugged him. When Maurice Stovall lost his mom, we felt like we lost somebody very close to us. We feel it."

That support, Tom Ruud said, helps ease his mind.

"You kind of plug away every day," he said. "There are days that are more difficult than others."
A Friend To Everyone

Tom Ruud met Jaime in 1971. The star linebacker with the Cornhuskers spotted her in an economics class. They were married in 1980.

"She was real big on treating people with respect," Tom Ruud said. "It didn't matter to her what their socioeconomic background was, what race they were, she befriended everyone. She was just naturally very outgoing and friendly.

"I think that's the biggest thing Barrett got from her."

Barrett remembered spotting his mother after that Minnesota game last season. At the end of the game, she was in the stands surrounded by Big Nasty, Little Nasty and other face-painting Bucs fans.

"She was friends with everybody by the end of the season," he said. "She loved being with the fans. That was her favorite thing."

Those fans have been showering love on Ruud, including providing him with a signature cheer - the crowd yells "RUUUUUUUD" whenever he makes a play.

There have been plenty of times this season fans have shouted Ruud's name, as he has started two of the three games at middle linebacker - his first NFL starts. Last season, Ruud was one of three Bucs rookies to play in every game, mostly on special teams.

In the 2006 regular-season opener against Baltimore, Ruud had eight tackles. Against Carolina last week, he had eight more.

"I thought he did a good job of recognizing things and made some good plays out there," said Tom Ruud, who played in the NFL for Buffalo and Cincinnati. "I was really pretty impressed that he made a lot of plays."

He told his wife all about it.

Tom Ruud visits the cemetery where Jaime is buried a couple times a week.

Barrett likes to visit alone; his father sometimes has company.

He talks to his wife, telling her what's going on with the family, what the children, including Bo, a linebacker for the Cornhuskers, and Kim, also a student at Nebraska, are up to. Lately, there has been a lot to talk about.

"I try to keep her abreast," Tom Ruud said. "She'd be proud."

frankbuc

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#1 : October 02, 2006, 02:37:06 PM

good read thanks for sharing, those guys have alot on thier minds
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