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Saints' Cesar Ruiz savors first NFL start in alma mater Michigan's backyard

Nolan Bianchi
Special to The Detroit News

It’s always special when a player gets to make his debut in the starting lineup of an NFL game.

But for New Orleans Saints rookie offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz, Sunday’s start at Ford Field against the Detroit Lions added just a little bit more sentiment: It came just down the road from where he played his college ball at the University of Michigan.

New Orleans Saints center Cesar Ruiz (51) blocks Detroit Lions defensive end Nick Williams (97) during the first half

Ruiz’s play inside was crucial, as the Saints’ running game had their way with Detroit’s defense between the tackles. Alvin Kamara ran it 19 times for 83 yards and a touchdown and Latavius Murray had 64 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. 

“I thought the guys up front were outstanding,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said.

The former Michigan center started 31 games for the Wolverines and was selected 24th overall by the Saints in April’s NFL Draft. He was hampered by an ankle injury that kept him out of the team’s season-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but played in each of his team’s last two games before getting the start on Sunday.

Ruiz on Friday said during a video chat with Saints media that he was excited to come back to Michigan for his first NFL start, but noted that the pandemic made the trip home a tad bittersweet.

“It’s cool. Unfortunately, you know the circumstances we’re living in,” Ruiz said. “Not being able to see the people I know, that I’ve connected with in that area. But, I know I have a great support system over in that area. So it feels good to go back to that state of Michigan.”

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.