Toughness, instincts and the consistent ability to perform one of football’s most basic tasks: tackling, are what define a great linebacker. Rumson-Fair Haven senior Mike Ruane exhibits all of those traits.

The leader of one of the Shore Conference’s best defenses both this season and over the course of his career, Ruane is he 2016 Shore Sports Network Defensive Player of the year for his play in helping lead the Bulldogs to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship.

Photo by Robert Samuels.

Rumson finished 9-3 and became the third program in Shore Conference history to win four consecutive NJSIAA titles when it defeated South Plainfield, 27-22 at Rutgers University, in the sectional final on Dec. 3. Along the way, Rumson’s defense under the director of longtime defensive coordinator and first-year Bulldogs head coach Jerry Schulte allowed just 9.8 points per game and recorded four shutouts to finish second in the conference in scoring defense.

Ruane finished his senior season with 120 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks, and those numbers could have been even bigger if not for playing just the first half in a handful of blowout wins. When the lights were brightest Ruane played his best, turning in double-digit tackle in six games, including registering 30 tackles in Rumson’s three playoff wins.

“Ruane is just one of those kids that does things you can’t coach,” Schulte said. “You can coach technique and things like that, but he just has that innate ability. He’s a natural-born linebacker.”

In a game versus Middletown South he made 16 tackles and recovered a fumble, and against St. John Vianney he made 13 tackles. When the Bulldogs shut out rival Red Bank, 27-0, to claim the Battle of Ridge Road trophy, Ruane made 10 tackles with a sack and a forced fumble. He made 15 tackles and recorded a sack in a first-round playoff victory over Cranford. In the state semifinals Rumson faced one of its biggest playoff challenges ever against an undefeated Somerville team averaging over 50 points per game. The Bulldogs rallied from a 13-0 deficit to win 21-13, and Ruane helped lead the way with 10 tackles.

Rumson fell to rival Shore, 14-7, on Thanksgiving eve, but Ruane was all over the place with a season-high 17 tackles. In the state championship game he made eight tackles with one sack and two tackles for a loss as Rumson’s senior class finished their careers a perfect 12-0 record in the postseason.

Ruane was a three-year starter for Rumson and finished his career with 373 tackles. He had 100 tackles as a sophomore on an 11-1 team, made 153 tackles last season and finished with 120 this year. He also showcased his leadership ability this season, helping a pair of sophomore linebackers, Christian Lanzalatto and Keegan Woods thrive in their first varsity seasons with a combined 181 tackles.

“He took to the leadership role right away, that’s just who he is,” Schulte said. “He took it upon himself to help the younger kids.”

Ruane is one of a handful of FBS recruits from the Shore Conference, and is verbally committed to continue his career at the University of Massachusetts. He had multiple offers from FBS and FCS programs including Air Force, Navy, Bowling Green, Coastal Carolina, Delaware and Nevada, as well as Ivy League offers from Columbia, Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania.


Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.