Presenting Rueben Mayes Field
June 27, 2012
By Bill Boehlke
From playing high school football in Canada to the big stage of the NFL, Rueben Mayes made it a long way, but on June 14, he returned to the practice field where it all began.
The town of North Battleford in Saskatchewan, Canada, honored Mayes for making it to the NFL, a feat not too many Canadians have managed. The practice field at the North Battleford Comprehensive High School has been officially renamed Reuben Mayes Field.
“It’s a very humbling thing,” said Mayes. “To go back where you were raised and where you were growing up, and to be honored in such a way from a legacy point of view. I said at the presentation I had nothing but gratitude and pride for what has happened.”
As a running back for the North Battleford Vikings, Mayes led the team to an undefeated season in 1980 and the SHSAA 3A Provincial Football championship. He is one of the only three Saskatchewan natives to make it to the NFL, the other two being Arnie Weinmeister (N.Y. Giants – 1950-1953) and current Seahawks punter Jon Ryan.
Mayes credits Mike Humenny, a coach for the Vikings football team, for coming up with the idea. Humenny pushed it through and presented it to the North Battlefield city council, and they unanimously approved the practice field being named in Rueben’s honor.
In a presentation speech to the high school students, Mayes shared five keys for success for the students to follow:
“One, you have to have a bold vision,” Mayes related. “You have to have something you’re good at that you can grab onto, whatever that may be. Two, you have to work hard at whatever it is to reach that goal. It’s going to take a lot of diligence and focus. Three, you have to be committed and persevere. You will get distracted, so write down your goals and put them in your pocket and reflect on them on a regular basis. Four, you have to have an anchor. You have to have something to grab onto when you fail. I shared my faith as a follower of Jesus Christ, and that’s my anchor. I realize that you’re working towards your dreams, and you fall down and make mistakes, so you need to have an anchor. Five, the most important key is a helping hand. Always remember the people who have helped you get where you are – links in the chain of your life – and you need to help others and provide a helping hand.”
And with special focus on all the members of the North Battleford Comprehensive football team, Mayes shared some special advice:
“My ending message was that I wanted every player on that field to have a sense of pride; about being on that football field and what it represents, proud to be a part of Battleford, Saskatchewan, and to be the very best you can be.”
Mayes played college ball for the Washington State Cougars, where he became an All-American and finished tenth in the Heisman Trophy race. He set single-season and career-rushing records (1,632; 3,519 yards) with the Cougars, and established a then-NCAA record for most rushing yards in one game (357 vs. Oregon in 1984).
He sees great things in store for the Cougars football program, and it’s not just because his son, Logan, plays linebacker for the team.
“I call (new football coach) Mike Leach an ‘old school’ football player, an old-fashioned coach – the real basics,” said Mayes. “His philosophy is, he wants kids to play hard, be very competitive and very tough, and to always be working on the details. And so everything they’ve done – from January to right now – has been based on those things. He also expects the kids to go to class and do well in school. It’s basic football philosophy, old school, and that’s the sort of thing for hard-nosed players that are going to be relentless.”
Rueben was drafted in the third round of the 1986 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, and he proceeded to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award that year. Mayes played five seasons with the Saints (1986-1991) before being traded to the Seahawks for the final two years of his career (1992-1993). He was named to the Pro Bowl twice during his NFL career.
As a Seahawks alumni, Mayes still keeps tabs on the team.
“I stay in touch with the Seahawks when I get the time, through the golf tournaments and other places, and I’ve been tracking the draft,” said Mayes. “My son is a pass rusher, so I’ve been tracking that. I really think the new philosophy in terms of attack defense, from my perspective, and getting to the quarterback on defense and trying to improve the passing game, I think we’re on the right track. I see some really good things happening for the Seahawks going forward.”
Mayes is now the regional director of development for Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon, where he lives with his wife Marie and son Kellen (16).