Nate Ruffin was born in Quincy, Florida, and came to Marshall University to play football. He was co-captain of the 1970 football team, most of whom died in the tragic plane crash on November 14, 1970. Ruffin was not on the flight due to an injury. In the days after the crash, he became the leader and spokesperson for the team and was tasked with identifying bodies of the plane victims and attending funerals of his team members. He played on the 1971 football team, known as the Young Thundering Herd.
After leaving Marshall University, Ruffin worked in human resources at The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington before moving his family to Jackson, Miss., for another job in human resources. Ruffin and his family moved one last time to Vienna, Va., where he worked for the Freedom Foundation as vice president of human resources and community relations. He passed away in 2001 after a long bout with cancer. He is buried next to his teammates in Spring Hill Cemetery.
In 1997, Ruffin was inducted into the Black Legends of Marshall Society. Marshall University Black Alumni raised money to have a room dedicated to Ruffin in the Alumni Center and has established the Nate Ruffin Scholarship to assist Marshall students.
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