Western Michigan midfielder Jake Rufe played a huge role in AFC Ann Arbor’s inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League. Rufe, perhaps among the most disliked players by opposing teams, has earned a bulldog-like reputation in Ann Arbor staying very active in the middle of the pitch.
As the season progressed and chemistry increased among the team, Rufe excelled as a sparkplug to help raise the energy on the pitch. Playing some of the top minutes on the team in the middle of the pitch, his impact was felt each match.
Following an outstanding fall season in the Midfield for Western Michigan, Rufe has high expectations to pick up where the team left of with AFC Ann Arbor: winning.
Read the full interview with Jake below:
AFC: You're coming off a really strong season with Western Michigan University. What were some of the highlights of your college season? How did the 2016 season with AFC AA help you this fall?
Jake: Had a great year with Western, but I had a few battles through sickness and injury. To start the year 6-0-0 was special to the team and I think our performances against in-state rivals (UM and MSU) had to have been some highlights. Going into the season after my time with AFC AA this last year, I was full of confidence and playing some of my best soccer. I was so relaxed playing and I think a lot of that has to do with the environment I trained in all summer to prepare me.
AFC: You're a fun player to watch and super active on the pitch. How do you stay fit to play the type of minutes you do?
Jake: I am not a fitness freak by any means but being able to stay active and dynamic is a massive advantage for any player and sometimes is the edge you need in a game. I like to do some cross training when I can to change my routine and the type of fitness. I love to play basketball when I can and I like to swim. A lot of it is a mentality. Its a small sacrifice that can have a big impact. Taking care of your body during off days can be equally essential during peak times in the season.
AFC: Last summer you made a massive impact on the pitch for The Mighty Oak and also made some great new friendships in your new teammates. What were some of the highlights for you last year?
Jake: Last years win against Lansing was an unforgettable game to be a player in so that’s an easy highlight. The staff and team wanted to win every game and you could feel the energy that a mentality like that brings. It was fun to be a part of that hunger for winning every time we stepped on a field.
AFC: What do you hope to accomplish with the club on the pitch this summer?
Jake: This summer, I want to be even more of an impact than last year. More than that though, I want to see us as a club raise the level every day. I want to be a part of seeing this team committed to being even better than last year and setting new standards for the future.
AFC: One of the interesting things about having so many strong NPSL clubs in Michigan is you end up playing against a bunch of your teammates throughout the season. What's that like for you?
Jake: The most fun games to play in are the ones against your arch rivals and the ones against your friends. To have so many good teams in Michigan makes it so your friends become those rivals. More broncos are in the league this year as well so those are some of the games circled on my calendar. Bragging rights for the year to come.
AFC: Who's been the biggest influence in your life to help you to get where you are today?
Jake: The biggest influence in my life thus far has been my family. My mother and father have been trying to help me see the big picture for years. Always encouraging me and telling me that there was more planned for me than what I could think or imagine. Time proves them right. My sister too; she stuck out watching more club soccer games than most could have and still brags about me every once in a while. It brings a special happiness to know that my family is proud of me.
AFC: What's been the biggest moment in your career so far?
Jake: There is a lifetime of memories in my career and I don't know if I could pick a defining moment. One time in high school, we played our bitter rivals and I think 6 of my best club mates were on the other team. They were supposed to be a better team than us. I ended up scoring two goals and forcing an own goal (which I claimed as mine to complete the hat trick) and we won the match 3-2 and I had never had a crowd that large go crazy like that. That moment of euphoria is hard to replicate and I think I wanted to be on that stage again. All that is not to say that I peaked in high school either haha.