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'RUSH'ING TO SUCCESS: Woonsocket native Rushaune Vilane attracting attention from NCAA Division I football schools after helping Bishop Hendricken win state title

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The University of Rhode Island is the of what figures to be the first of many schools interested in signing Woonsocket native and Bishop Hendricken sophomore Rushaune Villane. After playing a small but important roll as a freshman in the spring, Villane was a force this season to help the Hawks win another state title.

WARWICK – Rise and shine is at 5 a.m. each school day. Then it’s off to the bus stop in Cumberland for the next leg of Rushaune Vilane’s journey to Bishop Hendricken.

Is it worth the long trek from Vilane’s hometown of Woonsocket to the all-male Catholic school located off Warwick Avenue? The answer lies in the affirmative.

Off the top, Vilane enjoys all aspects related to school – his classmates, his teachers, his classes. He also gets good grades, ones worthy of his name appearing on the honor roll.

There's also the football aspect that appealed to Vilane the moment he toured Hendricken as part of an open house visit with his mother Rushie, the same person who makes sure her son is on time for the school bus that departs from Cumberland.

Dating back to last spring as a freshman and continuing through the recently completed fall season, Vilane has distinguished himself as an important cog in the wheel regarding the success of the Hawks. After receiving snaps at defensive end, his more natural position, as a ninth grader, Vilane shifted to left guard this past fall.

Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 215 pounds, Vilane finds himself in a good place with two high school football seasons in the books and two more on the horizon. Recruiting-wise, his name is already out there. This past June, the University of Rhode Island became the first Division I school to offer Vilane a scholarship. It figures to be only a matter of time before the Rams have company. 

To his credit, Vilane mentioned his mother when asked about the URI offer.

“It was a blessing, especially for my mom. She’s proud of me every day. She believes in me,” said Vilane.  

In his native Woonsocket, Vilane suited up for the city’s youth football program, nicknamed the Redskins. He started playing football when he was nine. As an eighth grader, Vilane played on the Woonsocket Middle School boys’ basketball team that captured the 2019-20 RIPCOA state championship.

The decision to attend Hendricken was made after Vilane’s 13U season with the Woonsocket Redskins.

“Hendricken gave me that welcoming feeling. This is the place where I want to be,” said Vilane.

Attending a high school in a different city meant Vilane's interactions would be waning with the Woonsocket-based pals with whom he made countless sports-related memories.

“Initially I was sad … leaving all my friends and going to a new place where I didn’t know anyone,” he said.

In no time, the doors to Hendricken swung open and Vilane’s concerns of fitting in faded away in a hurry.

“It was easy to make friends. There’s a lot of nice people,” said Vilane. “In the classroom, everyone wants to learn. The teachers are amazing.”

The spring 2021 football season resembled a baptism-by-fire for Vilane, who was thrust into duty on the defensive line when injuries and players opting out due to COVID concerns resulted in the Hawks turning to a freshman.

“I thought it was going to be a learning year for me. When they let me play, I was like ‘Wow. I’ve got to ball out for them,’” said Vilane.

As an encore to his freshman season, Vilane demonstrated the importance of adapting for the greater good. Instead of working on his pass-rushing skills, his M.O. became opening up running lanes and protecting the quarterback.

“It was tough, but I had to do it for the team. I just love that team so much.  Everyone has that one goal of winning. I stepped up, took it, and look what happened,” said Vilane, noting the latest state championship that Hendricken achieved following a 49-40 shootout win over rival La Salle that took place the Sunday before Thanksgiving. “My offensive line coach [Mike Sackett] explained everything to me. He said I was going to dominate. My teammates also gave me the confidence that I could do it. There are kids who are bigger and stronger than you, so you’ve got to move their body in a certain way for the running back to follow you to the hole.”

Noted Hendricken head coach Keith Croft, “You might not see it in the box score or the stats, but there’s been a huge maturation with Rushaune. What he’s given us by playing on the offensive line, which is not his natural position … he’s done everything he’s been asked to do and turned into one of our better linemen. He didn’t back down and did what was best for the team. We wouldn’t have won without him. He did a phenomenal job.”

Being known as a two-way lineman figures to help Vilane the more time he spends in the recruiting waters.

“Quite honestly, he’s making himself more marketable for college,” said Croft. “Is he going to be an offensive lineman in college? No, but college coaches like guys who can play other positions.” 

“I want to play at the next level,” said Vilane, who plans to attend a few football camps next summer. “I know my name is out there a little bit, but my coaches will definitely help with my recruiting.”

No question, Vilane has landed on his feet at a school that’s not exactly around the corner from where he lives. Listen to his coach and it would appear the best is yet to come for the promising youngster.

“I think he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with over the next two years,” said Croft.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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