WVU football: Rumph is a football player
MORGANTOWN - Three months ago, Ricky Rumph had a signed National Letter of Intent to play football at Division II Catawba College.
He also was advised to forego college football and play at an Atlanta prep school.
One season on the field and six months in the classroom was what Rumph was told he needed to make it to Division I.
"My coach always told me never to settle for anything less than what you want because whatever you think you are, that's what you are," Rumph said. "I always believed I was a good player."
Rumph had two things working against him and he'd have to overcome both to eventually make it to West Virginia, where he is today and where he practices as a second- and sometimes first-team cornerback.
The first was something he couldn't help. Rumph only started playing football as a junior at Florida's Mainland High. Before that, he was a point guard for the basketball team.
"Our defensive backs coach saw me play basketball and thought he could do something with me, and he said, 'Nobody wants a 5-foot-10 point guard. You need to play football,' " Rumph said. "At our high school, you really did have to be taller at point guard. Vince Carter set a very high standard. He was 6-5."
So Rumph played football as a junior and started as a senior and the word eventually spread. Rumph ended up as a Class 6A all-state player who made 68 tackles and intercepted six passes. He was a physical player who was getting better and better with the technical aspects.
"It wasn't really that hard," he said. "I had the mindset that I wanted to learn as much as I could about it. The first year, I was learning and getting better and that transferred to my senior year summer. I knew a whole lot more about corner because I was watching film and paying close attention to everything my coaches told me."
That work ethic would be needed again soon. When colleges got a closer look, they discovered the second obstacle. Rumph wasn't going to be eligible in college, though he was about as close as one could be. Rumph's grade-point average was fine, but his test score was a tad low. He scored 16 on his first ACT.
"I didn't have a calculator," he said.
Rumph targeted the ACT early in June as his best chance to gain eligibility and bypass prep school, let alone a Division II school. He leaned on teachers and guidance counselors and anyone else who would help him get the score he needed. He skipped lunches at school to cram in some test preparation and had a hard time sleeping as the date approached.
He took the test and felt relieved and encouraged at once.
"I knew I did good job," he said. "Coach called me in his office and said he had bad news. Then he said I got a 19 and started smiling."
Rumph was eligible and his coach's attempt at humor convinced Rumph that would be the last time he was unprepared. WVU's defensive coordinator, Joe DeForest, would soon call and invite Rumph to campus, where he accepted a scholarship offer. He quickly became an obvious choice to play in his first season with the Mountaineers and just his third year of organized football.
"I feel like we stole one," DeForest said.
The Mountaineers needed that, though. Senior Pat Miller and junior Brodrick Jenkins remain projected starters while fellow freshman Nana Kyeremeh has settled in on the second team with Rumph. Beyond that, WVU hasn't had too many other options.
Aware of the opportunity, Rumph is again sneaking in study sessions and taking tips as often as he can. The lessons are learned a little easier than expected because what he's being asked to do at WVU is similar to what he had to do in high school. He's ready for practice and meetings and, true to his pledge, hasn't been caught off guard since arriving.
"I always preach that there's carry-over," cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts said. "If you show up late for class or show up late for an exam or forget your pencil, that's going to carry over to other parts of your life."
Roberts reinforces that lifestyle. He requires his players to have a notebook and a pen at every meeting. If a player comes unprepared, he runs. Roberts is trying to break down the wall that a foolish person might think exists between football and academics or between academics and everyday life.
It's come quickly to Rumph. He says he's at WVU because of the sacrifices he made and the habits he developed to get ready for the ACT. He believes he's applied the same customs to making it with the Mountaineers. Roberts has spotted and admired that on the field and in the meeting room.
"He's a naturally driven person," Roberts said. "He has a lot of pride and he takes a lot of pride in putting a good product on the field. That shows with his film study and the discipline that he shows, whether it's in the weight room or even with getting meals and getting treatment."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.