Ruke Orhorhoro is going to Clemson and only started playing football a year ago (Story by: Evan Paputa)

Written by
Evan Paputa
Photo Credit
Jeff Corrion

Among the countless future Division 1 players in Saturday’s Prep Kickoff Classic matchup between River Rouge and Cass Tech was a 6-foot-5, 270-pound gentle giant that possesses the agility most high school running backs only dream of and strength most linemen would die for. His name is Ruke Orhorhoro.

The River Rouge senior defensive lineman does not get the publicity or accolades that other top players in the state do but he is quietly putting together an impressive résumé as one of the state’s most dominant players.

“Off the field, he is a great young man. He goes to church every Sunday and works his butt off in the classroom. We are lucky to have him,” River Rouge head coach Corey Parker said.

Only telling the story of Orhorhoro receiving dozens of scholarship offers and deciding to commit his future to Clemson University would not do him justice.

Up until last season, Orhorhoro had never played a down of football. He was a part of the River Rouge basketball program that made a deep run in the playoffs as a sophomore in 2017.

One day in the winter of 2017, Parker used one of his best recruiting lures and went to basketball practice.

“A coach’s best recruiting tool is to go to basketball practice and find out who wasn’t really a great (basketball) player, but a big kid. I just kept asking- ‘hey man, are you interested in playing football?’” Parker recalled. “He (Orhorhoro) came to me after the semifinal (basketball) loss and said ‘coach, my first love is football, I want to play.”

Following River Rouge’s run to the Class B basketball semifinal in 2017, Orhorhoro approached Parker and told him he was all in for playing football.

“Coach Parker came into basketball practice one day and checked me out and asked me if I liked football. I told him I always wanted to play football, it has been my first love, but i never got the chance to. Ever since then, it has been a blessing,” Orhorhoro said.

With Orhorhoro in the fold, Parker and the River Rouge football team once again found success on the gridiron in 2017. They returned to the MHSAA Division 4 semifinals for the second year in a row and continued driving the program in the right direction.

Although Orhorhoro had success in his first season on the gridiron, it did not come as easy as some would imagine.

“Oh man, it was not always easy. A lot of tough practices where my body was hurting, but I couldn’t stop. Coach (Parker) kept asking if football was for me and encouraging me to push through it and I’m glad he did,” Orhorhoro said.

Once the season ended, Orhorhoro’s name took off on the camp circuit where high level Division 1 colleges began to take notice of a prospect most had never heard of. When it was all said and done, Orhorhoro received 25 scholarship offers highlighted by the likes of Michigan State, Penn State, and Clemson.

But how did Clemson University-- located in northwest South Carolina-- find and target Orhorhoro?

“The coaches said they watched his tape and saw his size, agility, aggression, and willingness to learn football and were impressed. They have a defensive line unit so he is going to be with guys just like him and fit right in,” Parker said.

Orhorhoro will join Joe Carolan-- a defensive end in the class of 1975, from Grosse Pointe Farms and graduate of University Liggett-- as the only other player from the state of Michigan to ever play football on scholarship for Clemson.

Recruiting and interacting with the Clemson coaches was just a little bit different for Orhorhoro than it was for Carolan.

“It’s actually a pretty funny story. Coach V (defensive coordinator, Brent Venables) followed me on Twitter. I tried to follow him back but his account is locked so we were unfollowing and playing following tag for a while before we connected and I gave him my number. We talked on the phone a few times and built a relationship,” Orhorhoro said.

As a whole, recruiting was an enjoyable process for Orhorhoro thanks in large part to it only lasting about 12 months unlike other top recruits that start the process in eighth or ninth grade.

“I really liked going on the road trips and visits; just seeing everything. My least favorite part was probably the lies. Coaches lie to you day in, day out. As soon as I went to Clemson, I knew it was for me,” Orhorhoro said.

When Orhorhoro enrolls at Clemson next fall and attempts to tackle college football in one of the top programs in the country, it will not be a surprise to Parker if he exceeds expectations.

“I think it’s going to be a fantastic fit for him. He is looking to be a a part of something, not go and be the “I” guy,” Parker said.

Graduation Year
  • DE
  • OLB