ST. CLOUD, Minn. —
It has been a while, fall 2007 to be exact, since Chris Rupe played under the lights at Schafer Stadium.
But time has not diminished the feats he performed on the gridiron when he donned a Bulldog uniform about six years ago. During his time at Ottumwa, Rupe earned all-Conference and offensive lineman of the year honors twice. As a senior, He was named team captain and 2008 Ottumwa male athlete of the year. Rupe’s athletic exploits were not solely confined to football, either.
He also made a name for himself on the wrestling mat, finishing his career with a 93-34 record and becoming a Greco-Roman state champion. Indeed, his wrestling skills were impressive enough to garner interest from several Division 3 schools. But Rupe opted to take a different route.
Rupe decided the football script he had been writing was still unfinished. So the star lineman decided to take his talents to St. Cloud State University, where he has been playing ever since. Today, Rupe is the returning starting defensive nose guard for the Huskies with the end of his football career in sight. With just two games left on the schedule, Rupe aims to end his senior season on a positive note.
Fittingly, Rupe was named team captain this season, just as he was in his senior season with the Bulldogs. St. Cloud State is 5-4 this year, with games remaining at Minot State today and at MSU Moorhead next Saturday.
“As a junior and sophomore, you kind of grow into that role through hard work in the weight room and hard work on the field and being a good teammate,” Rupe said. “As a senior you kind of take on a responsibility. ...You kind of try to lead your team both on and off the field.”
Rupe said there is one thing he will particularly miss about no longer being able to strap on the pads and don a Husky uniform: His teammates.
“That’s what you’re going to miss the most ... the camaraderie,” he said.
St. Cloud State was not initially part of Rupe’s college plans. He originally planned to go to the University of Northern Iowa and play rugby with his two brothers. But the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry and, after SCSU continued to show interest in him, Rupe began to reconsider his future.
“The campus was all together and it was a really good-sized town,” he said.
Ultimately, Rupe said what really sold him on SCSU was the football coaches.
The senior nose guard has made great strides since he was a green redshirt freshman. He was selected for the all-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference second team defense his junior season.
“I’ve become a lot more knowledgeable about the game in general and the different techniques it takes to play college football,” Rupe said.
He attributes his improvement to consistently working hard; not just during the season, but during the summer and in the offseason as well. In addition, Rupe credits some of his progress to a willingness to buy into the teaching style of his coaches.
One character trait Rupe had already learned before he ever set foot on SCSU campus was toughness. He developed this intangible while playing football for the Bulldogs under then-coach Tom Kopatich (now Ottumwa’s activities director).
“Ottumwa has always been known for its toughness,” Rupe said. “It was definitely a great tradition to be a part of.”
Rupe said he has followed the Ottumwa football programs ups and downs since he graduated.