Ruggles goes from being Mary football chaplain to captain

Updated: August 22, 2003, 2:19 PM ET

BISMARCK, N.D. -- For two years, Reed Ruggles' greatest contributions to the University of Mary football team came on Saturday mornings when he led the players in a pregame prayer.

This season, he hopes to contribute on the field as a wide receiver.

In 2001, a year after he caught 25 passes for 242 yards, the 6-foot, 180-pound Scranton native was poised to become Mary's next great all-around receiver. Then he suffered a stress fracture in his back, and he took a medical redshirt even though it appeared his career was over.

Instead of being the go-to receiver, he became the go-to guy.

"They asked if I would be the team chaplain," he said. "I thought that maybe when one door closes, another opens.

"It was a step of faith for me," Ruggles said. "That was a challenge to talk about life lessons with (the team). It made me think, 'Am I walking the talk?"

He spent extra time in the weight room and on the practice field, and this season is going from chaplain to captain. If his back holds up, he will be part of what could be a strong receiving corps that also includes Derek Schatz and Jake Pfau.

"It's been a difficult year for me," Ruggles said. "When you have a back injury, you have to sacrifice certain things."

Coach Myron Schulz said he has told Ruggles to take it easy during practices, especially two-a-day drills. Ruggles has had a difficult time doing that.

"I want to be a fine-tuned machine, but when you're hurt, you have to back off," he said. "The biggest thing is that I need to be smart. I'm not going to be dumb about it."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index