NFL International Player Pathway spotlight: Ralf Rusins, DT, Latvia

Representing Eastern Europe in this year’s class of NFL International Player Pathway Program Invites is college football veteran Ralf Rusins.

This isn’t the first time Rusins has been a unicorn among elite prospects. For many seasons, the Liberty Flames defensive lineman was the only Latvian player in all of the NCAA DI FBS football.

The Carnikava, Latvia native’s hometown clearly stands out when glancing at Liberty University’s roster. On a team filled with players from football hotbeds like Florida and Georgia, the 6’6″, 310-pound European became a key part of the Flames impressive defense, notching 36 starts over the last three seasons. While more and more international prospects from Germany, Austria, and other Western European countries make the jump to division one, Rusins took pride in representing Latvia all by himself on college football Saturdays.

Ralf Rusins (99) honing in on ball carrier Photo: Liberty University

Rusins’s strength in the middle of the Flames defense played a key role in the program’s meteoric rise. Since arriving on campus in 2015, the raw Latvian prospect and the Liberty Flames earned their first FCS playoff berth, won back-to-back conference titles, moved up to DI FBS, won their first-ever bowl game, and earned a top 25 FBS ranking for the first time in the program’s history.

In his six years with the Flames, the super senior amassed 130 tackles, 15.5 tackles for a loss, and six sacks. In 2021 , he recorded 35 total tackles, including six for a loss and three sacks.

Like many international prospects, Rusins didn’t find the niche sport until his late teens. Before finding his way to football, Rusins played basketball and was a three-time national champion in under-20 Judo. Shortly after joining the Riga Lions, head coach Matt Kessinger arranged a recruiting trip for Rusins in the US.

The IPP prospect recently competed in this years’ Hula Bowl All-Star game along with fellow NFL IPP invite Thomas Odukoya. The Latvian’s body type of physical play impressed scouts in more ways than one. Some NFL personnel see Rusins as a potential offensive lineman in the pro’s while others believe his production, film, and frame could make him a fierce nose tackle on Sundays.

Read more about Ralf Rusin’s unique football story

Watch Rusins NCAA highlights:

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football