The progression and recovery of a student athlete on the track

Zachary Araki

Senior jumper and criminal justice major Rodney “DJ” Ruffin performs in the long jump at the Strawberry Relays. Ruffin returned to competition after a knee injury took him out of play during his sophomore year. File Photo/The Lion’s Roar


Senior jumper and criminal justice major Rodney “DJ” Ruffin recovered from a knee injury to place 11th in the International Association of Athletics Federations world outdoor rankings.

Ruffin shared his thoughts on the ranking.

“I’m down to 38,” said Ruffin. “I got to continue moving forward with it, but it was pretty good considering I was injured for a while and came back and ended up one of the best in the world.”




Ruffin was also named to the 2017 Southland Conference Male Field Athlete of the Week on Jan. 11 and the 2017 Southland Conference Spring Commissioner’s Honor Roll. He ended his first Southland Conference Championships with three top 15 finishes. In the Southland Conference 2017 indoor season, he finished with both the best high jump and long jump.

According to Ruffin, a knee injury during his freshman and sophomore years posed the largest challenge to him.

“Freshman year it was bad, but I was still able to compete, and then sophomore year, last year, it just got so bad that I could barely walk,” said Ruffin. “It’s been a battle trying to get that better.”

Ruffin discussed his return to competition since the injury.

“It’s been pretty good,” said Ruffin. “I had to watch what I do to prevent injuries and try to get my knee stronger since I had a knee injury and just working towards that and being more aware of what I’m doing compared to last year.”

Track and field Head Coach Corey Mistretta is pleased with Ruffin’s performance.

“After missing all of last season with an injury, it is nice to have him back on the track and healthy,” said Mistretta. “He is a very talented and gifted jumper, and his future is extremely bright. He has been extremely consistent this year in his jumps, and we are expecting him to improve on his current marks over the next few weeks. To have DJ on the world list is very exciting and great for Southeastern.”

Ruffin’s journey in the sport started in seventh grade. He stuck with it when he “just ended up being good at it.” Ruffin discussed his progression since seventh grade.

“I’ve gotten a lot better,” said Ruffin. “I was pretty good in middle school whenever I did it, and then high school, I was good at it. I won the state championship in high school, and then college, I ended up just excelling even more at it. So, each year I’ve done, it just keeps getting better and better, which is pretty good.”

Mistretta shared his perspective of Ruffin as an athlete.

“DJ is a motivated and highly self-driven athlete,” said Mistretta. “His work ethic and determination are models for what we would like all of our athletes to emulate. DJ is always eager to learn about his event so he can become more technically proficient. He has very big dreams and works tirelessly in his quest toward achieving them.”

Ruffin discussed the challenges of time management as a student-athlete.

“It’s very hard,” said Ruffin. “During school, I had class Monday through Thursday, practice Monday through Friday and then work Friday through Sunday, so it was awful dealing with everything.”

Becoming one of the best in his sport motivates Ruffin to pursue his goals.

“I want to move on and hopefully become professional in track, and I’m very close to it I would say,” said Ruffin. “If I keep going through this progression of just getting better each year, then hopefully whenever I finish school, I’ll be able to achieve that goal.”

At the Strawberry Relays on April 13, Ruffin placed first with his third best long jump at the time. Ruffin went on to earn 11th place in the International Association of Athletics Federations world outdoor rankings. File Photo/The Lion’s Roar