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Soccer player joins football team
w GSU kicker
Drew Ruggles, a junior Georgia Southern soccer player, wears a GSU football jersey for the first time as he prepares to warm up before the Eagles faced the North Dakota State Bison at the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D., Friday in the Football Championship Subdivision playoff semifinals. - photo by MATT YOGUS/staff

   FARGO, N.D. — Meet Georgia Southern's newest football player.
    Drew Ruggles, a junior soccer player for coach Kevin Kennedy's Eagles, tried out for the GSU football team Thursday morning, earned a spot as a kicker, and was on the plane to Fargo, N.D., just hours later.
    His Thursday evening plans changed from finishing up finals and visiting his parents in Virginia to playing Division I football in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals on ESPN2.
    The Eagles' kicking game has struggled throughout the 2012 season, missing 13 of 21 combined attempts with three different kickers.
    GSU football coach Jeff Monken contacted Kennedy on Wednesday and asked if there were any soccer players who might be able to help.
    "I told him we had a couple of guys," Kennedy said.
    Kennedy suggested Ethan LaPan, a junior forward who kicked a long field goal of 48 yards in high school.
    The players were to report to Paulson Stadium Thursday morning, suit up in full gear and show what they could do.
    It wasn't long after Monken's request when Ruggles found out about the football job opening.
    "Ruggles texted me later and said, 'Hey I heard they're looking for guys on the football team. Can I come out? I said, 'Yeah, why not?' They both kicked for a while, anywhere from a 20- to a 40-yard field goal," Kennedy said. "As the morning went on, Drew got hotter and hotter."
    The final test came when the Eagles sent a defense after him on some tries.
    It was done deal after that — almost.
    "Coach Monken told him, 'Now all you need is a toothbrush and a pair of underwear,'" Kennedy said.
    Five hours after his tryout, Ruggles was on a plane bound for North Dakota.
    Kennedy was happy to help.
    "It's the Eagle Nation," he said. "When somebody in the Eagle Nation needs a hand, everyone's happy to help out."
    Ruggles, a junior second-team, All-Southern Conference soccer player, hasn't played on a football team since he was a sophomore in high school.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.