Michigan's Cesar Ruiz is now with the New Orleans Saints, as he was taken 24th overall on the first night of the NFL draft. The offensive lineman shared an extremely emotional moment with his family shortly after he was drafted, thinking of his father immediately. The other part was was the excitement and release from realizing that he's now a professional in the NFL.
"I dedicate my whole journey to him," Ruiz said on Thursday night.
Tragically, Ruiz lost his father at the age of eight years old. His father, who was also named Cesar, was hit by a car on the side of a South New Jersey highway after he pulled over to help another drive fix a flat tire. Ruiz started playing football at the age of 10 to cope with the loss.
Ruiz didn't think he was going to be the 24th pick originally, but got the call from the Saints with about two minutes left on the clock. Ultimately, he got the call from Jeff Ireland and Sean Payton. When asked, Ruiz was confident in saying that he could play any position across the interior line, pointing out that that's where his versatility comes into play.
Payton's vision for Ruiz is that he wasn't drafted to be a backup, and is expected to push Larry Warford for the guard spot currently. Financially, it's a move that could be extremely beneficial for New Orleans. However, Ruiz loves to be the guy 'in charge of the show' at the center spot. Ruiz was asked about the first thing that came to mind with the Saints, and it was Drew Brees, someone who he'll now have a hand in protecting.
"They're a traditional team. Team that traditionally wins. Respectable franchise."
Ruiz added that his strengths are pass protection, athletic ability, his ability to pull, getting out into open space on screens, getting to the second level, and that he can play in any offensive scheme.
"I've played in so many different offenses, and I see the Saints play. It's a versatile offense, and I'm a versatile player. So, I'll fit perfectly," Ruiz said.
New Orleans only had one meeting with the former Michigan Wolverine at the NFL Combine, and Ruiz said the Saints tested him with plays during his interview and impressed them with his ability of knowing football. They had him watch film, gave him calls, allowing him to take notes, treating him like it was his first day with the team. Ruiz said he was able to reiterate the plays and give it back to them very clearly and pretty easily.
"Football is really natural for me, and now it's going to be even more natural because it's just football. That's really the main thing that I'm doing now is football. So, my football knowledge is going to get higher and higher, and going to be even better at it."
Over the next few days, Ruiz expects to communicate with a lot of his new teammates and get to know the organization. The Saints told Cesar Ruiz, who has never been to New Orleans, to get ready for a different kind of heat. In turn, he'll be focusing on more intense workouts. They'll see him in July is the hope, when the Saints look to report to training camp.