People close to Bill Belichick often say he was born to coach because of his experience watching film as a youngster with his father, Steve, who was a long-time assistant coach at the Naval Academy. If that's the case, Bo Ruud was certainly born to play football.
To say the Patriots final selection of draft weekend has a strong football background would be like Barack Obama saying he wished Reverend Wright would go away. The Ruuds would have to be considered the first family of Nebraska football.
Consider this impressive gridiron lineage: Bo's brother, Barrett, was a standout for the Huskers before becoming a starting linebacker for Tampa Bay, where he's played the last three years. Their father, Tom, enjoyed a stellar career in Lincoln before becoming Buffalo's first-round pick in 1975. Two of their uncles, Bob Martin (1973-75) and John Ruud (1978-79), as well as their great-grandfather, Clarence Swanson (1918-21), all enjoyed successful careers for the Huskers.
With a background like that, it's not surprising to hear Bo Ruud talk about his compulsion to watch film.
"I'm kind of obsessed about it," Ruud said shortly after the Patriots took him in the sixth round (197 overall). "I will tell people there is not one linebacker in the country that spends more time watching film than me. It's one thing I actually enjoy doing and it helps. I think football is really important."
Not surprisingly, Ruud said he's been doing it since high school with his brother and continued the practice ever since. When Barrett made it to the NFL, Bo stepped it up a level.
"I was actually trying to do what he was doing at the pros while at the college level. You hear about all the great football players doing that and you just try to replicate that work ethic and study habits and see what that does for you."
According to Kevin Cosgrove, Nebraska's defensive coordinator/linebackers coach from 2005-07, Ruud's off-field work has paid off handsomely. Early in his career with the Huskers, Ruud played weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 set but filled in seamlessly for the departed Stewart Bradley (Phildelphia's third-round pick in 2007) on the strong side in 2007.
"He's a student of the game. He's one of those guys who really came in here watching film all the time," Cosgrove said. "The thing about Bo is he has position flexibility because he's so prepared. He played inside the year before and last year when we lost Stew I needed a guy of his stature as far as length goes and range for some of the things we were doing and Bo has unique abilities to do some of those things."
The move didn't seem to affect him much as Ruud remained one of the Huskers most consistent defenders. His tackle numbers dropped slightly but Nebraska's disappointing season left him out of the bowl picture and thus limited him to 10 games (as opposed to 14 as a junior). He continued to make key plays, however, returning a pair of interceptions for touchdowns while being asked to focus on some different roles.
Cosgrove maintained that regardless of position, Ruud produced. And unlike many college linebackers who come into the NFL with limited experience in the passing game, the 6-3, 235-pound Ruud thrives in that capacity.
"He'll cover," Cosgrove said. "He has such good range—that's probably his biggest asset because of his length – and he has very good body control. I read somewhere that he was stiff in the hips but I don't see that at all and I've coached a lot of guys that have played in the NFL. I think he has outstanding athletic ability and change of direction and flexibility and things like that."
Cosgrove went on to explain how Ruud turned in several game-changing plays while employed in coverage, a fact bolstered by his five career interceptions and three touchdowns.
But for all of the athletic feats that Cosgrove described, perhaps the thing that will most endear Ruud to the New England coaching staff is his character. Cosgrove literally ran out of words explaining what kind of person the Patriots would be getting soon.
"Off the field he has an outstanding family – extremely close," Cosgrove began. "He's a good person. You'll never have a problem with him. He's a great guy in the community and just an outstanding individual. He's a very good leader. He comes from a family of football players.
"I know when you think of the New England Patriots and the type of players they have it starts with character and Bo has outstanding character. I couldn't say enough good things about Bo."