Ball State head coach Mike Neu speaks at his introductory press conference on Jan. 8. Neu's first recruiting class brought in 22 new players. Breanna Daugherty // DN File
Ball State football recruits showcase athleticism in multiple sports
One of head coach Mike Neu's goals on the recruiting trail was to find players who would make Ball State's football team more athletic.
The coaching staff accomplished that by going past the gridiron and looking on the basketball court, baseball diamond and soccer field.
"I love the fact that we find guys that play multiple sports, and they excel at multiple sports,” Neu said. “That tells me they're versatile, they're competitors.”
Eleven of Ball State’s 27 commits are listed as playing another sport in their athletic department bios.
“I feel like there's something good from the other sports that you maybe just can't get from playing the game of football — the change of direction in soccer, the change of direction in basketball,” Neu said.
David Rueth’s highlight video, for example, shows how skills translate across different sports. Rueth won Ohio’s Division II State Championship as Alter High’s starting goalkeeper, and 22 seconds into his football highlight video, Rueth ranges to his left to cover a receiver in the flat.
He starts crashing to the line of scrimmage, but he stops in his tracks when the quarterback winds up to throw to the corner route developing behind the 6-foot-1-inch linebacker. He leaps to his right like he’s trying to stop a penalty kick in the upper corner of the goal before he hauls in the interception.
Rueth is one of several defenders in the class whom linebackers coach Johnny Curtis and defensive backs coach Chevis Jackson expect to have “position flexibility” because of his athleticism.
Ball State doesn’t go out of its way to find multi-sport athletes, though.
"I don't know if we look for it, it's just something they happen to do,” Jackson said. “With kids nowadays, they don't just do one thing."
But having the athleticism and competitive drive to play multiple sports is definitely a plus, Curtis said.
"When guys play other sports, it tells us they're willing to put themselves out there to compete,” Curtis said. “That's really what I believe winning programs are built on. That's where I came from, just about every student was required to play two sports, and we were a national powerhouse."
Before joining Ball State, Curtis coached at John Curtis Christian School in Louisiana where incoming offensive lineman Sione "Poni" Tu’uta played football and threw shot put and discus. Fellow offensive lineman Curtis Blackwell also threw shot put, and he qualified for the Indiana state championships as a sophomore and junior at Norwell High School in Uniondale.
Four incoming recruits also ran track in high school — wide receiver Hassan Littles (Lithona, Georgia), and defensive backs Bryce Cosby (Louisville, Kentucky), Myles Hannah (Stone Mountain, Georgia) and Verenzo Holmes (Grovetown, Georgia). Holmes finished sixth in the 100m dash at the Georgia state championships.
“I love guys that run track,” Neu said. “When you're running track, man, you're sprinting to the finish line and it's a clear cut, you embrace the competition."
That competitiveness will come in handy for these players too as Neu said he doesn't promise any playing time on the recruiting trail.