Ratliffe embraces ’Hawks mantra


By Justin St. Peter

Oct. 14, 2015

The Warhawks’ football team’s longstanding mentality is, “pound the rock,” in reference to the program’s ability and tendency to run the football.

Senior running back Jordan Ratliffe has made a career of shedding tacklers and lives by the ’Hawks’ mantra.

“He is such a physical runner and what I would call a workhorse, in the sense that, you can give him the ball snap after snap,” head coach Kevin Bullis said. “He has great vision and the physicality to be a very physical runner in our conference which is really important.”

The running back has averaged 100.4 yards a game in the first five games of the season rushing for 502 yards and six touchdowns.

It often takes many defenders to bring Ratliffe to the ground.

“A lot of people come down hard and fast to stop our run, so I meet a lot of them in the hole,” Ratliffe said. “Coach always says, ‘the first guy can’t get you.’ I just try to make the first guy miss and let the other guys try to catch me.”

He set a career high in the Sept. 24 Morningside College game on the road with 193 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns, including the game-winner.

Ratliffe gave the ’Hawks the lead for good with a six yard touchdown run in that game with 38 seconds left. He said it was a married play, or one where the quarterback, Chris Nelson could either hand the ball to him or throw it.

“Once I got it, I knew I had to score,” Ratliffe said. “It was me one on one with the safety, and I knew I was going to get in.”

Before Ratliffe was scoring game-winning touchdowns in college, he was a multi-sport athlete growing up.

Ratliffe did not start playing football until seventh grade, after running track, playing basketball, and baseball.

He was the starting quarterback for his middle school league, and his team won the league championship with him under center.

When he arrived at Milwaukee Vincent High School, he began as a quarterback before transitioning to his current position of running back.

Once Ratliffe, arrived at UW-Whitewater, he appeared in four games during his freshman year and rushed for 95 yards.

A year later, he led the team and WIAC conference with 229 rushes for 1,259 yards. He also had a team-leading nine touchdowns.

“I was fifth string on the depth chart my sophomore year, but there were so many injuries that I had to step up,” Ratliffe said. “The more I played, the more I matured. The game slowed down, and I learned much faster.”

Bullis agreed with Ratliffe.

“To me, every year, he has made leaps and bounds,” Bullis said. “He is what I would call a constant student of the game, in the sense that he never feels like he knows enough and keeps studying. He is a really a sponge for information on trying to make himself better.”

After an uncharacteristic three-loss year in 2012, the ’Hawks made it back to the top, defeating Mount Union for the D-III National Championship in 2013.

Ratliffe had 146 yards and two touchdowns in the championship game.

“It was amazing,” Ratliffe said. “A lot of guys have never been in that position before. It’s a day I won’t ever forget.”

Coming into his junior year, fellow running back Dennis Moore was once again healthy and combined to give the ’Hawks a formidable 1-2 punch on the ground.

“Jordan was the physical guy and Dennis was the shifty, cutter guy,” Bullis said. “It was really great to have two different styles of running.”

Moore ran for 1,125 yards and five touchdowns, while Ratliffe tallied 971 yards and found the end zone nine times.

The two helped the ’Hawks finish its second straight undefeated season and win the national championship once again. 

“Last year, splitting carries with someone took a real load off, “ Ratliffe said. “It makes your body feel more rested. This year it’s different, but I know I have to step up for my team.”

And step up he has. With a new coaching staff in place and multiple injuries across the offense, Ratliffe has been forced to carry the load for the ’Hawks. He has responded with 82 carries for 341 yards in his last three games.

Although the ’Hawks just lost its 36-game win-streak to conference foe UW-Oshkosh, the team is still ranked No. 6 by D3football.com.

Now, the health and human performance major with dreams of being an athletic trainer and coach gets the chance to teach the underclassmen what he has learned during his time on campus.

Bullis believes he is the perfect man for the job.

“He is a very quiet young man and a fantastic leader for our players,” Bullis said. “He does a great job of working with the young running backs and teaching them.”

Ratliffe just wants to end his playing career with another WIAC Championship.

“Our main priority is winning conference, we never try to win a national championship,” Ratliffe said. “Once you win conference, the playoffs come right after. The team we have is really determined.”