Willis football player making his mark

November 25, 2009 9:10:18 PM PST
A Willis football player is turning heads, not just on the home field at Wildkat Stadium, but in the entire community. No matter what team the fans are rooting for, when Davey Ruddick takes the field, everyone is cheering. In Willis, even the junior varsity Wildkats take some tough hits. Once you're on the team, getting off the bench isn't easy.

"You gotta practice hard to play," Davey told us.

"I've never seen Davey have a bad day," said Willis Coach Audie Jackson

But sometimes a player comes along who's the heart of the huddle.

"He's at practice every day, trying to prepare the best that he can and as a coach, it's hard not putting someone like that on the field," said Jackson.

Davey has overcome the odds just by being here.

"That kid has been through things that you couldn't even imagine," said Davey's mother, April.

On his fourth Christmas, there was a terrible explosion in the backyard.

"When they told me he wasn't going to make it, I'm like, 'You don't know my Davey,'" said April.

April was right, even though her son had burns on 98 percent of his body.

"It's been a life challenge ever since," she said.

But even she isn't his biggest fan.

"I help him tie his shoes, put on his clothes, sometimes doctor his knees," said Davey's brother, Dustin.

Dustin is always looking out for his big brother.

"I think he's cool," said Dustin. "I love him."

Underneath the pads and helmet is a small, scarred frame.

"I'll make an exception to other people that think they can't do nothing," said Davey.

But also a 15-year-old who seems to be able to teach everyone in the stands something.

"He teaches everybody that you know you have to love everybody for who they are not what they look like," said April.

You just have to watch to understand.

"He punts as well as any punter we have on the JV currently," his coach told us.

Not everyone cheered April's choice to let her son go out for the football team.

"People whisper and say things. People talk about you. We get that a lot. 'I can't believe she is so stupid to let him play football out there on that field,' and then you have the parents who are like, 'Oh my God. Look at him'."

But by the end of the season, everyone in the Willis stands knew #40.

"The other kids love him. They think he is wonderful. They think he is inspiring," said Willis teacher Yvonne Harvey.

"This kid comes to school every day with everything that he goes through and you look at him and you think, 'I can do anything,'" say

Texas football may be big. Now Davey Ruddick's a part of it.

"I believe he has a purpose, a serious purpose," said April

Perhaps it's to remind us all that sometimes the biggest play of the game has nothing to do with the final score.

Davey has been through more than 100 reconstructive surgeries. He is recovering from one just last week on his mouth to improve his ability to eat. He still has dozens of surgeries ahead of him.


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