Tayvon Ruley is a competitor and has an insatiable will to win, but the Temple redshirt senior running back understands that despite the Owls struggles, playing football can be a positive experience.

Even with the Owls at 1-4 overall and in the American Athletic Conference heading to Orlando for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. game at Central Florida (4-2, 3-2), Ruley has taken pride in the season, and with good reason.

The losses hurt, but the personal victories are also sweet, an indication of his resolve, his continued belief in himself when others would have packed it in.

Last week Ruley got the first start of his career after sophomore Re’Mahn Davis quit the team and entered the transfer portal.

Ruley had 15 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown in Temple’s 47-23 loss to Southern Methodist at Lincoln Financial Field.

“It was amazing. I was thinking, ‘Wow, you are really the first-string running back for Temple,’ ” Ruley said in a phone interview this week. “I always believed in myself and had faith in God, but I wasn’t sure when the time would come.”

Nothing has been easy for the 6-foot, 215-pound Ruley, who runs hard between the tackles, but has a gear to bounce outside.

Tayvon Ruley (29) scores a touchdown during the first half against SMU last week.
Laurence Kesterson / AP
Tayvon Ruley (29) scores a touchdown during the first half against SMU last week.

A local product from Penn Wood High, Ruley spent his first two seasons of college eligibility at Valley Forge Military Academy and College.

Then he walked on at Temple, redshirted in 2018 and got on the field last year, picking up 24 carries for 120 yards and a score. He earned his scholarship after the fall season a year ago.

He entered this season the clear No. 2 behind Davis, and now he is No. 1. What his coaches and teammates notice is somebody who doesn’t take for granted his spot on the team and has an unbridled joy at being able to suit up each week.

“He’s making the most of it,” Temple coach Rod Carey said about Ruley’s chance to play more. “It’s fun to be around that, and that kind of infectious attitude is what we have to focus on. He’s enjoying it and he knows he needs to improve, yet he is really enjoying it.”

His teammates are happy for his success, knowing that nothing came easy.

“He is a phenomenal teammate,” said starting offensive lineman Vincent Picozzi, who also began his career as a walk-on. “... He has been working his butt off from the time he got here, and it’s shown on the field. Whenever he gets the ball in his hands he wants to do something magical with it.”

Temple has lost its last two games by a combined 85-26 margin.

“I hate losing,” Ruley said.

But he loves the journey. It’s OK to have those feelings simultaneously.

“It’s a blessing to be able to play,” he said. “There are a million other dudes who can be here, and I am the one who is here.”

And he doesn’t plan to be leaving anytime soon. Since the NCAA has ruled that this season doesn’t count on the eligibility of football players, Ruley can return next season and says he plans to.

He said he is slated to earn his degree in December in adult and organizational development.

“I am 100% coming back," he said.

Temple faces big odds this week. The banged-up Owls are 24.5-point underdogs at UCF. None of that matters to Ruley.

“I never think a team can beat us,” he said. “I am always on the mindset that we can win, against anybody.”

And even if the Owls don’t win, it’s all right to enjoy the experience and to get the most out of playing football as possible.

“For me, being able to start, being able to help the team, it is like a milestone,” he said. “This will stay with me the rest of my life.”