Bruce Ruth knows that when he walks onto the RFK Stadium field Friday night, representing the East squad in the 13th annual D.C. All-Star high school football game, he will be about to play his last organized game.
Ruth will not be going to college. He has not been offered a scholarship to play football and says that if someone approaches him after the game with an offer, he will reject it.
Ruth, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound-linebacker from Spingarn, is one of 20 members of the 45-man East squad who have not signed a letter of intent to play college football this fall. He has opted to join the military, calling it his best bet.
The purpose of the game, scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., is to give players who have not been offered scholarships a chance to be seen by coaches, said Frank Parks of the D.C. Coaches Association, the game's sponsor.
The next steps for Ruth and, also, Woodson tackle Marvin Payne are not, some of the players say, necessarily by choice. Many players who were getting ready for the Friday game at Spingarn Monday night said they believe that inadequate facilities at Interhigh schools and the academic reputation of the schools make attending college virtually impossible. a
"It's not getting in, it's surviving," Ruth said. "Who wants to take a chance on a kid from D.C.? This area has poor overall grade averages and doesn't prepare one for college."
Payne said the Interhigh League has some exceptional athletes with decent grades, but that, "Scouts and colleges tend to look at the area in general as being poor and they stay away. They figure we can't make it in college so why take a chance on us."
Desmar Becton from Eastern is one of 25 players on the squad who has signed. The 6-1, 190-pound tailback who figures to carry the brunt of the East attack Friday is headed for Virginia Tech. Becton admits that he had to cram in order to get into VPI.
"I didn't recognize the opportunities that I would have as far as attending college and playing football would be until it was almost too late," Becton said. "By that, I mean, I really didn't push muself in school and found myself scratching to get by."
Ballou Coach Tommy Hargrove, who will be directing the East squad, agreed that poor facilities were a part of some of the "negative situations" Interhigh schools face. However, he said, it's up to the individual as far as college is concerned.
"Pushing these kids through has long been a problem," Hargrove said. "Our schools have fine academics and do as much for the student as they possibly can. What it all comes down to is the student doing the work."
"You can knock school all you want but you have to be there to learn is what it all comes down to," said Becton. "Sports is the icing, education is the cake."
Becton said many of the players look up to those who have made it in the pros. Coolidge's Mike Butler, in his fifth year with the Green Bay Packers, is a graduate of Kansas. Gred Butler, who starred at Spingarn and Howard, is with the Montreal Alouettes. An award in his name will be presented to Butler's mother for his work in helping high school players.
The squads will practice tonight and Thursday at 7 p.m., the East squad at Spingarn and the West squad, coached by Coolidge's Sam Taylor, at Coolidge.