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Age is just a number. And defensive lineman Ray Ruschel proves that.

The 49-year-old has made national headlines after he decided to play for the North Dakota State Colleges of Science football team in Wahpeton, near the Minnesota border. 

Valley News Live reporter Jack Wallace said Ruschel has been an active duty member with the United States military for the past 17 years and is currently enlisted in the North Dakota Army National Guard. He was told about the team from a friend in his Army unit and decided to try out for the team.

Ruschel is a freshman this year, majoring in business management. His head coach, Eric Issendorf, is a year younger than Ruschel. 

The quirky tale of the oldest college football player in the country attracted the attention of the Washington Post, which reports the previous holder of the mantle was Tom Gore, who strapped on the shoulder pads in 2021 to play for North Carolina's Methodist University at age 45. 

Ruschel, who last played high school football in 1992 at Trinity High School in Washington, Pennsylvania, moved to North Dakota in 2018. The Post reports that Ruschel is a father of two adult children and works the midnight to 8 a.m. shift as a mechanic at Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative.

He said his goal of enrolling at the college was to become a supervisor at his work with the degree he would earn.

Tom Brady is still playing football. LeBron James has said he intends to play into his 40s. And for Ruschel, he's just doing what makes him happy.

“I want to live life,” Ruschel said in an interview with Valley News Live. “If I had the chance and I didn’t take it, I would regret it. I had a chance, and I’m taking it, and I’m living life to the fullest," adding that he's surprising himself by being able to keep up with his younger teammates.

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