Jesus Christ jumped from 120 feet the other day at St. Peter's quarry. That's what the guy goes by—Jesus Christ. Nobody knows his real name. You'll just be hanging out at the quarry, which is about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia, and you'll look up and you'll see this guy standing on the top rock, ready to jump—120 feet—straight down. Makes your teeth hurt just to watch. Mike Ruth saw him do it once. Watched him stare straight out for a heartbeat or two and then step off, as if he'd been standing on a street curb or something.
You think the guy's dead, then, blip, his head pops up through the water and there he goes, swimming away, not saying squat. A few guys—Ruth is one—jump from 65 feet, but nobody in his right mind jumps from 120. Of course, no one accuses this Jesus guy of being a neurosurgeon, either. Everybody laughs at him, but sometimes Ruth gets to wondering. Jesus Christ. Who's to say? Maybe the guy is Christ. Maybe Christ is jumping off 120-foot cliffs these days to teach us all to quit being wimps.
Ruth is open to all possibilities. Lord knows enough people have laughed at him. You try telling people you're thinking about throwing away an NFL career to become a priest. It's like saying you're morally opposed to MTV. And we're not talking just any NFL career here. Ruth, a 6'2", 255-pound noseguard able to bench-press a good-sized farm animal (580 pounds), could win the Outland Trophy this year at Boston College as the best interior lineman in the country. Ruth could be a first-round draft pick. However, when he says he might have something better to do with his Sundays, folks think he's wimpy or worse. That's one reason that when Ruth is on the football field, he's dead set on turning quarterbacks into ectoplasm. "I want to show people you don't have to be a wimp to be a Christian," he says. But because people don't quite know what to make of one who can quote Cicero but looks like Schwarzenegger, he ends up spending a lot of time by himself.
Ruth says spending time by yourself is like praying. Of course, when you're around Ruth, you do a lot of praying yourself. Ride in Ruth's Jeep and you become one with your seat cushion. Then you kiss the ground. He has been in 13 auto accidents in the last five years and hasn't suffered so much as a hangnail. Once, he hit a patch of ice on the New Jersey Turnpike and spun into the oncoming lane. He was thrown free of the car. This summer, in his hometown of Norristown, Pa., Ruth was driving his brother Rudy's sports car when a woman fell asleep at the wheel of her car and plowed into him. Mike's only ill effect was a queasy stomach from swallowing his chewing tobacco. When Rudy, 24, a junior high school teacher, saw the remains of his chassis, he told Killer—that's Mike's affectionate nickname for their mother—"He's lucky he's not dead."
But then, Ruth is fearless and all but indestructible. Is Robbie Bosco listening? On Aug. 29, when BC plays BYU in The Holy War (a.k.a. The Kickoff Classic) at the Meadowlands before a national television audience, there should be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and Ruth's eminence should become self-evident. With the Fabulous Flutie finally finished—and with Ruth built along the lines of St. Paul's Cathedral—the cameras can't help but notice him.
"The first time I saw him," says BC defensive line coach Orfio (Orf) Collilouri, "he was a senior at Methacton [High]. He had on shorts and a T shirt and he just rrrrrrrripped. I offered him a scholarship on the spot." Smart man, Orf. Not only did Ruth turn out to be one of the strongest specimens in the game—college or pro—but he also runs a 4.8 40 and has a vertical leap of 32 inches. Moreover, you need a court order to get him off the field (he played 846 straight defensive snaps last year), and he seldom offers the other cheek upon being smitten.
After the Clemson game in 1983, Jack Bicknell Jr., the BC coach's son and the Eagles' starting center, was asked to rave a little about the Tigers' acclaimed noseguard, William (The Refrigerator) Perry. Bicknell just shrugged. "He's pretty good," Bicknell said. "But you've got to understand, I go up against Mike Ruth every day in practice. Nobody's better than Mike Ruth."
Scouts say Ruth is mighty and shall prevail in the pros. "He's about as big as [ Seattle Seahawks All-Pro noseguard] Joe Nash, and twice as quick," says superscout Joel Buchsbaum. "He's very, very intense, and he's incredibly strong. You look at him and it looks like his skin is on too tight."
When bored with juking offensive linemen this way and that, Ruth simply uproots them and pitches them out of his path, as if they were ragweed messing up his garden of sacks. Once, during one of Ruth's gardening fits, tackle Scott Harrington, who played next to Ruth and has now graduated, pulled him aside. "Hey, Mike, how 'bout throwing guys to the other side for a while?" he said. "They're getting in my way."
Against Houston in last season's Cotton Bowl, Ruth made the defensive play of the game. After Cougar quarterback Gerald Landry had faked a handoff to fullback Mat Pierson to start the option, Ruth did an IHOP job on Pierson—pancaked him—before noticing that Pierson didn't have the ball. This upset Ruth, so he went after the quarterback, who was rolling away. Ruth unleashed his wrath upon Landry, only to notice he didn't have the ball, either. This further incensed Ruth, so he stuck out one of his ponderous forearms and tripped the tailback, who did have the ball. One out of three ain't bad.