Cameron Ruiz’s search for redemption

Former Temple cornerback Cameron Ruiz battled injuries and himself during the 2022 season but has found hope once again.

Cameron Ruiz, former Temple cornerback, blocks a player from the University of Memphis an at Owls' game at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 2. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Being compared to former Heisman Trophy-winning running back Bo Jackson is usually high praise. However, for former Temple cornerback Cameron Ruiz, it was for a reason that no football player would want.

While playing for the Los Angeles Raiders in a January 1991 NFL playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jackson’s femur popped out of place and he fractured his hip bone. In February 2022, Ruiz suffered a muscle contraction so forceful that the unique injury fractured his pelvis in two spots, causing trainers to give him the nickname “Baby Bo.”  

In 2021 under former Temple head coach Rod Carey, Ruiz was Temple’s top cornerback, recording 34 tackles and five pass break-ups. Ruiz’s injury stripped him of the chance to prove himself to Stan Drayton’s staff during offseason training that took place in the spring and summer of 2022. 

When he finally recovered from the injury, the team found other cornerbacks to rely on and Ruiz was moved to certain coverage packages. With the injury behind him, Ruiz is now preparing for the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft.

Ruiz suffered his injury while working out at Edberg-Olson Football Complex. Temple strength and conditioning coach Chris Fenelon put Ruiz through sandbag races to simulate “awkward” movements, and in one of those races, Ruiz went down in pain. After falling to the ground, Ruiz originally thought he pulled his hamstring before realizing the injury was more severe. 

“I can’t get up,” Ruiz said. “‘I can’t walk or do anything. So, I got really scared but I was like, ‘I’ll be fine. It’s just a pull, like really bad hamstring.’”

Fenelon described the mood on the field as “nothing crazy” because no one knew the severity of the injury at the time. Despite the lack of worry, Ruiz’s teammates still helped him off the field and supported him.

After being examined at the hospital, doctors told Ruiz his hamstring pulled his pelvis apart during the non-contact drill because his hamstrings were too strong for his own good. His injury was very rare because it requires an unusual amount of leg trauma to trigger a pelvis to break. 

“When we got the diagnosis, you’re like, that doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Terrence McHugh, Ruiz’s physical therapist at Temple. “Normally, you see something like that in a car accident.”

Originally, Ruiz was only supposed to undergo a surgery that would screw his pelvis back into place. However, due to the position of his hamstring, he opted to get open hip surgery that took four to six hours to complete.

Ruiz’s surgery was performed by Dr. Chip Routt of Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, who also repaired Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s hip when he injured it at Alabama. Tagovailoa’s injury shed light on how Ruiz should handle his own.

“I would have been lost if he didn’t have the injury,” Ruiz said. “I’ve never heard of anybody else having that same injury.”

Ruiz described his rehab process as “hard and slow.” Due to a pinched nerve in his hip, he was unable to perform any physical movement for nearly eight weeks and used a walker to move around while relearning how to run and jump.

He started rebuilding strength and movement in his lower body. Then, he began to do more strength training to regain the muscle he had lost. Rebuilding muscle allowed him to begin performing more power-based activities, like sharp cuts and explosive start-and-stop movements.

When he returned to football activities for the 2022 season, Ruiz struggled to accept his new reality. Once the top cornerback on Temple’s roster, he was suddenly buried at the bottom of the depth chart for reasons beyond his control.

“I thought I was going to come back and be even better,” Ruiz said “It’s very hard [to go] from being that guy on the team to being a guy in the shadows.”

After talking with some former players about his situation, Ruiz began to view his journey differently. Instead of harping on the opportunities he lost, he began to focus on being a role model for his teammates.  

He became a leader for the young guys, specifically cornerback Jalen McMurray. Ruiz gave the redshirt-freshman advice when he needed it, building a strong relationship with him in the process of McMurray earning a single-digit.

“Cam’s definitely my old head,” McMurray said. “I can always go to him for advice, for stuff on and off the field. Our relationship is really, really good.”

Ruiz was healthy enough to play in 2022 and appeared in every game, just not as a starter. He recorded 12 tackles and one pass breakup.

“I always say never be satisfied,” Ruiz said. “Satisfaction is the first step to failure with anything you do.”

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