Wesley notebook: Long after his career started, Peele excited for second chance

“To get a second opportunity after being young and making bad decisions … Wesley taking me in with open arms, I really appreciate it,” Ruhann Peele said. Wesley College sports information

DOVER — A couple weeks ago, some of Ruhann Peele’s Wesley College football teammates were asking him how old he was.

They were a little surprised when the big receiver answered, ‘26.’

“It was pretty funny,” said Peele. “They’re like, ‘Man, are you really that old?’’

There are reasons that Peele is still playing college football seven years after he started his career at Rutgers, of course.

He was involved in some off-field altercations while with the Scarlet Knights that got him kicked off the team.

Ruhann Peele

But the 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior, who figures to play a key role when No. 22 Wesley (1-0) faces a 1 p.m. showdown at 13th-ranked Delaware Valley (1-0) on Saturday, says his life is on a much different path now.

Peele is a criminal justice major. And, in his second year at Wesley, he was even named one of the Wolverines’ captains for this season.

“You can see it,” said Wesley coach Chip Knapp. “The light bulb has gone on for him. He understands what football is all about — being a great teammate, giving it his all every chance he gets to step on a football field.

“He is a natural-born leader. It was just a matter of building those connections with his teammates and coaches. Everyone looks up to him. We joke that he’s the alpha male of the offense. When he speaks, guys listen. He’s a great person to have on our team.”

“I’m still learning how to be a leader,” said Peele. “Being so much older than everyone else, going through things that I’ve been through, being able to help the younger guys, tell them what’s wrong and what’s right and how to prepare yourself. …

“I like it — being able to impact other people … and just make them better overall, as a person and as a football player.”

Peele’s talent, especially at the Division III level, is unquestionable. When he first went to Rutgers, the coaching staff played him on both offense and defense.

He was named the New Jersey Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week after catching 12 passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns in the Wolverines’ 69-0 victory at Franklin Pierce last Saturday.

Before last season, though, Peele’s last game action with Rutgers was in the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl. He last practiced with the Scarlet Knights in 2015.

So while he caught 45 passes for 667 yards and seven TDs last fall, Peele is only now starting to reach full stride again.

“I was definitely surprised, coming down here and thinking that it would be easy,” he said. “But you’ve still got to put in the work. There’s still talent, there’s still good players out here. You’ve got to work, just like on any other level. You’ve got to be prepared.”

“He’s a different player this year,” said Knapp. “He’s ready to go. He was good last year but he’s improved his game a couple notches. You could see it last Saturday.”

Of course, there was always a good chance that nobody was going to give Peele a second chance.

He ended up at Wesley because of a relationship he started with Wolverine assistant coach Steve Azzanesi when he was in high school. Azzanesi recruits New Jersey for Wesley.

Peele was working at a warehouse in New Jersey when Azzanesi told him Wesley was going to bring him in.

“When I got the call, I was more excited than him,” said Peele. “Someone was willing to give me the opportunity to play football again. I was just ready to go.

“The first thing was, to graduate,” Peele said about his reasons for coming back. “Whatever I start, I want to finish. Football is a way for me to stay focused in school. It helps me, it motivates me to succeed in the classroom.

“I love the game to death,” he added. “To get a second opportunity after being young and making bad decisions … Wesley taking me in with open arms, I really appreciate it. I try to give everything I’ve got every day on that field — and just try to help everyone around me and help the team do whatever it takes to win.”

Something to prove

Much of the time in this rivalry with Delaware Valley, Wesley has been the perennial NCAA Division III playoff team and the Aggies were trying to make a name for themselves.

That’s changed a little this year with DelVal being the higher-ranked team so far.

On the other hand, the Wolverines dumped the Aggies, 34-0, in their season opener last fall.

Either way, Saturday’s contest is a big game. The all-time series is tied 3-3.

“When you look at the two programs’ histories, there’s no doubt that we are two of the top programs on the East Coast over the past decade or so,” said Knapp. “So this is kind of a game to see who is the top program in the East, that’s how we look at it. We’re excited about it.”

“They’re ready,” Peele said about DelVal. “We beat them last year so I’m pretty sure they’ve got something to prove. We’ve just got to practice hard, know our assignments, know our jobs and be prepared to go in there for a four-quarter battle.”

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