Imagine sitting in the crowd at a college basketball game, and the whistle blows for a substitution. Onto the court steps a gray-haired, 55-year-old man in a blue uniform. Yet even more surprising is watching him deftly steal the ball from an opponent half his age (whose face displays a look of shock), and then sprint down the court on a fast break. To top it all off, imagine him passing it off to a particular teammate—his son—who lays it off the backboard for an easy 2 points. You might see that happen this year at Emmaus Bible College (Dubuque, IA).
Paul Ruter, age 55, attended Emmaus and played for the Eagles 32 years ago, nabbing the MVP title his freshman year. He was unable to finish his one-year degree as he was called home to take over the family farm.
“I loved farming,” Paul said about his decision. “That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to raise my family on the farm, and that took precedence over schooling.”
Since then, it’s always been Paul’s dream to return and complete his degree. Little did he know that six kids and over 30 years later, he would return and be playing basketball shoulder to shoulder with his youngest son, Caleb.
“I knew I wanted to come back to Emmaus and finish my degree. I always had it in the back of my mind ever since I came here. But the opportunity to come back here with my son made it even more appealing. But I wanted to make sure it was ok with him.”
Paul’s son, nineteen year old Caleb Ruter, is a stand out starter at Emmaus, last year averaging 20 points and leading the team in steals. He also was named 2nd Team All-American in the ACCA conference. You might think it would be hard for a college student to play basketball on the same team as his father, but not for Caleb:
“He’s my best friend. He’s been my best friend my whole life, and it’s a blast having him on the team.”
Luke Wilkerson, Emmaus Athletic Director, had good things to say about Paul and Caleb and their relationship: “Having been involved in the recruiting process for both Caleb and Paul, I can attest to the character of both men. You would be hard pressed to find another college freshman who not only doesn’t have a problem with his dad joining him for his experience, but is actually excited about it.”
Emmaus Bible College, enrolling mostly traditional 18 to 22 year old students, has the rare opportunity of educating a senior citizen as a junior in the classroom. His age and life experience puts Paul in a unique spot as well. In classes and on the court, this dedicated husband and father (and grandfather!) is an incredible example to the younger students and players surrounding him.
Emmaus men’s basketball coach Robert Kimble agrees: ”The Lord has blessed Emmaus Bible College with the father-son example of Paul and Caleb Ruter. I have a tremendous amount of respect for their commitment to their school, their team, and each other. It’s been a pleasure coaching these guys.”
Father and son are in the Teacher Education program at Emmaus, both aspiring to become teachers—Paul in elementary education, and Caleb in secondary education. For years, Paul’s own father dreamed that his son would one day become a teacher, and that dream will soon be fulfilled as Paul sets up his own classroom.
Both Caleb and Paul are surprised at the press their story has received. The original story that aired on CBS Minnesota station WCCO has been picked up by over 60 stations across the country, and the duo will be interviewed on Fox News’ morning show “Fox & Friends" this Sunday, January 12, at around 8:20am.
The emotional appeal of this story has undoubtedly played a part in its viral spread. For a father who loves his kids and loves sports, this is a dream come true.
“I kind of pinch myself all the time,” Paul says. “I get to play ball with my son.”
UPDATE: Here is the link to the “Fox & Friends” interview: http://video.foxnews.com/v/3044930432001/unlikely-college-basketball-court-companions/#sp=show-clips