Falcons lineman wins Ruggieri scholarship
For the 12th year in a row, the Connellsville Booster Football League has honored a Connellsville High School graduate with the Pete Ruggieri Memorial Scholarship.
This year's scholarship award winner is Justin Cole, a standout offensive and defensive lineman for the Falcons.
The scholarship is presented in honor of Pete Ruggieri, who was the Connellsville Booster Football League's first president more than 60 years ago.
"It's kind of exciting," Cole said. "It's real special because my grandfather (Ron Fogle) knew him (Ruggieri) and my whole family is into football. To get this scholarship is an honor."
Like all past recipients of the $500 scholarship award, Cole got his start in football by playing in the Connellsville Booster Football League. His team was the Dunbar Mules.
Cole was became a solid player for the Falcons. He earned varsity letters during his junior and senior seasons. In his senior season, Cole was chosen to represent Connellsville on the All-Foothills Conference team for his work as a defensive lineman. He was also selected as Connellsville's MVP along the offensive line.
During his senior season, Cole played offensive tackle, defensive end and defensive tackle. Cole will also represent Connellsville at the annual Foothills Football Classic on June 21 at Norwin High School.
But Cole wasn't awarded the Pete Ruggieri Memorial Scholarship for his play on the gridiron alone.
One of the requirements to win the scholarship is that the recipient must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA. Cole easily met that requirement. He graduated with a 3.8 GPA, which ranked him seventh out of his graduating class of 326. Cole was a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and was a winner of the National Science Merit Award.
The final requirement for the scholarship is that the recipient must play college football. Cole has received a partial academic scholarship to Washington & Jefferson. He will major in pre-med and play on the defensive line for the Presidents.
According to Connellsville Booster League president Eric McCrae, Cole was a deserving winner of this year's award.
"Justin is an overachiever, and he is a really good player that rose to the occasion," McCrae said. "He did things that not a lot of people thought he could do. The Connellsville Booster League is proud of our guys that can go and play football at the college level and represent Connellsville. The way Justin carries himself and the character he has is what our league and our community should be looking for."
McCrae also noted that the scholarship is just one of many positive consequences that can be achieved by area children looking to join the Connellsville Booster Football League.
"The league is looking to get as many kids involved as possible," McCrae said. "The league helps build character and helps these kids prepare for everyday life."