Making a Big First Impression: Rueben Bain, Jr.

Making a Big First Impression: Rueben Bain, Jr.

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2024 edition of Hurricanes Magazine.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Lachande Thompson wasn’t exactly surprised when her son called to tell her he’d brought home one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s biggest individual honors.

Proud? Yes. But surprised? Hardly.

She likes to joke that Rueben Bain, Jr. has always been a bit ahead of his time and has, more often than not, found ways to make big first impressions.

After all, he made his dramatic entrance into the world three weeks early and didn’t exactly wait for Thompson to make it to the hospital before he made his debut.

So, the fact her boy earned a starting job at Miami just three games into his collegiate career and was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year two months later only seems, to her, more proof that Bain knows how to set the tone early – on the field and everywhere else.

“I joke with him a lot in saying that he has his own plans. He was due at the end of September and decided to come on September 8th. … And he could not wait for me to make it to the hospital. He was born in the ambulance,” Thompson chuckled. “He’s always been determined to pave his own road, if I must say.”

These days, Bain is paving his own road at Miami, the program he’s loved his entire life, the program where his cousin, former Hurricanes cornerback Tolbert Bain, once starred.

The freshman finished his first season in orange and green with 37 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss 7.5 sacks, numbers that ranked tops among all Miami defensive linemen. Bain also notched back-to-back games with multiple sacks in the Hurricanes’ wins over Clemson and Virginia last fall and twice, earned recognition as the ACC’s Rookie of the Week.

In December, he was ultimately recognized as the conference’s top defensive newcomer and named to a plethora of Freshman All-America Teams, including those put together by The Athletic, 247Sports, ESPN and others.

While all of that success and all those accolades may have caught the attention of some outside Coral Gables, Bain – and those who know him best – expected nothing less.

“I have super-high expectations, so I was trying to get any kind of awards or trophies that were possible, whether it was the Outland Trophy or the Heisman, something,” Bain said. “Watching football growing up, I always thought sky’s the limit. So, I never settle for less. I really don’t care about age or being in this class or that class. I just wanted to come in and play football. My expectations were all at the top. … Being Rookie of the Year means a lot. I had a friend that won it last year and it was something I was thinking about since I got to college. And I actually did it. It’s not like I made a goal and then didn’t put the work in. I put the work in, stayed dedicated to the work and the work paid off.”

Said Hurricanes head coach Mario Cristobal, “It means the world to him, that’s what it is. He is really talented and plays really, really hard and it means the world to him. [We] need a bunch more guys like Rueben Bain.”

While Bain is undoubtedly pleased with how his Hurricanes career has started, the freshman points out his work at Miami is nowhere near close to being finished.

Toward the end of last season, he began stepping up as one of the leaders in the locker room. Continuing to find his voice as one of those leaders remains a priority for him.

So, too, is setting an example for the South Florida community that embraced him first when he was a four-time state champion at Miami Central High School and has continued to support him now that he is suiting up for his hometown program.

And, Bain said, he hopes his journey at Miami inspires young football players across Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, particularly when it comes time to decide where they’ll play college football, too.

“The history behind Miami, really … everybody who’s come through here has tremendous passion for the school and for the city,” Bain said. “Just having the chance to have that impact that they had and feel that love from the community, the school, the alumni, it’s just amazing. At the end of the day, I feel like I’m doing something the right way. And I know my mom is proud of it, my grandma, everything …

“I embrace it like no other. Being here, it’s something that can’t be taken lightly, because if you know the history of the program, the people that have been come through here, it’s not something that’s just something to do. You can’t just halfway through it. You have to give it full effort. I just always look back on it and just recognize the position that I’m in and I don’t take anything for granted. I have family members that came through the process and have been where I’m at. They always told me how it was and what it can be. I want to see what it can be, so I put my best foot forward every day.”

And of course, he wants to continue growing his game on the field.

Being in Charlotte last December for the ACC’s postseason awards ceremony has only fueled him to get back there – as a competitor in the conference championship game.

He’s determined to continue to do the work needed on the field, in the weight room, and in the classroom to make that possible.

“I want to see my game grow to its potential max every day. I’m putting in the work on and off the field to be the best player and best person I can be,” Bain said of his goals for 2024. “I feel like with the culture, the staff, and the players I’m surrounded with, the sky’s the limit and the only thing that can stop me is me. … Focusing on me and becoming the best player I can be and just dominating that aspect, then being more vocal, not just leading by action, but by word of mouth too, I feel like that’s something the team needs, the program needs. Once we get a few solidified leaders and captains, we’ll be okay.”

Bain has, through his first year as a Hurricane, already impressed teammates, coaches, and opponents. And every expectation is that he’ll just continue getting even better.

One person who believes in Bain’s ability to continue improving? His position coach – who just so happens to be a Pro Football Hall of Famer, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a Miami Dolphins legend and one of the most prolific defensive linemen in the history of the game.

Hurricanes defensive line coach Jason Taylor got his first up-close-and-personal look at Bain’s physicality, strength and talent during spring drills last year and knew, right away, the Hurricanes had a special player.

“He came here for a reason. He wanted to put on for his city and play here and continue to make a legacy here. It’s important to him,” Taylor said. “He embraces it. He spends time with everybody after practice. He’s always hanging out with family or friends or kids. He’s got that personality where he’s a big, soft, friendly kid – not in a negative way. He’s a big teddy bear, but he’s also a really good football player that is very violent, very physical, and very nasty on the field. But off the field, he does what he should do. He’s a perfect gentleman, he’s able to smile, shake hands, and kiss babies … His name will be hanging up there, in the rafters with the rest of those greats and then who knows where he goes from there. Maybe one day, his name will be right next to mine at the stadium. We’d love to have it.”

Thompson, Bain’s biggest fan, also has no doubt there are more good things coming her son’s way.

“I hope there’s more awards to come and I know there will be because that’s just him,” Thompson said. “And I’m definitely waiting on his diploma because that’s a must for me. But I know he’s going to grow more in his craft and just become a bigger role model for his community. … I just want Rueben to be the best Rueben that Rueben can be and for the world to see why I love him so much.”