The high school football season begins in less than two weeks. Leading up to preseason games, the Times will answer 10 pressing questions facing Pinellas schools.
By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2002
Who is LeRue Rumph, and how big a difference will he make at Clearwater Central Catholic?
LeRue Rumph is simply the best private school player in the county, and maybe the best player period. And for some fans, he could be the best player you haven't heard of. Yet.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound safety/wideout was ranked the No. 2 junior in the Tampa Bay area by the Times prior to last season, but never got a chance to live up to the billing. On the first play of CCC's Week 4 game at Berkeley Prep, he broke his right leg, ending his season.
In the three games prior, he collected 243 total yards and three touchdowns. As a sophomore he caught 22 balls for 392 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 102 yards in the Marauders' first-round playoff win over Fort Myers Bishop Verot. Defensively, he maintained the outstanding level of play that earned him a starting spot as a freshman.
His two and a half seasons were more than enough to get attention from colleges around the country. Former CCC and current Countryside coach John Davis was told by several coaches from pass-happy colleges last year that they would have taken Rumph on the spot to play receiver.
But around the county? Rumph, with more than the usual senior's sense of urgency, figures he needs to make some more noise.
"I guess this year will be my talking year," Rumph said. "I've got to get on the field and do some things and really put my name out."
After having a metal rod inserted in his leg, Rumph returned to football in the spring. He said it's likely going to stay there for a while, joking that it only bothers him when the weather changes.
For CCC, he will start the season at safety and gradually work his way back into the offense. New coach Mike Jalazo has multiple sets to take advantage of Rumph's talents, either handling the ball or as a decoy. As a wideout, he should combine with Orlando Rivas for one of the county's best quarterback-receiver duos.
Unfortunately, the schedule includes just two area teams, with Palm Harbor University visiting in Week 3 and the always-heated rivalry game at St. Petersburg Catholic in Week 7. But Rumph knows his peers will find out what he's doing, and plans on giving them a show.
"(Lakewood quarterback) Pat Carter and I went to a camp last summer and he's like, 'Man, you're a CCC boy, you guys don't play anybody,"' Rumph said. "So I've got to show him what I've got.
"If I go out on the field and do things (other players) can't do, it's like, 'Whoa, maybe he is good."'
This season, this full season, he should get that chance.