Editor’s note: The Menominee High School Athletic Hall of Fame will induct 8 new members at a ceremony on August 22 at Riverside Golf Club. Each Tuesday, the EagleHerald will feature one inductee. Tickets for the ceremony and banquet are on sale at the Menominee High School Main Office and Athletic Office. Cost is $25 per ticket. For further information, contact John Wills at 906-863-6887.

MENOMINEE — In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, it took a very special kind of high school athlete to be moved up to the varsity squad as a freshman or sophomore no matter what sport you were trying out for.

For the Menominee Maroons in the 1979-80 basketball season, there was a player on the JV team lighting up the nets named Al Ruleau. After playing four games for the jayvee squad, Ruleau was called up to the big leagues where he scored two points on a pair of free throws — and the rest is history.

Fast forward two years to the end of his senior season and Ruleau’s awards and numbers certainly speak for themselves. He was a two-time Great Northern Conference and Upper Peninsula Player of the Year, a two-time All-GNC and All-U.P. first team selection, a choice on the Class B All-State team after his senior season and finished his Maroon career with 1,158 points — second all-time behind Pat Miller (1,627) and 35 ahead of Dewey Bellisle (1,123).

Ruleau was a big part of Menominee for all four of his years attending high school, and now he will be an even bigger part for years to come, as he will be inducted into the Menominee High School Athletic Hall of Fame at a ceremony at Riverside Golf Club on August 22.

“Al was every coach’s dream,” former high school coach Owen Peterson said. “He allowed himself to be motivated and then he responded so well whenever he was challenged. Some kids want to do, but Al was one of the kids that actually got it done.”

During his debut on the varsity squad, Ruleau showcased his ability on the defensive side of the ball, helping to limit Oconto Falls’ Jim Mayer to two points after he scored 10 in the first half. The Menominee Herald-Leader from after the game read, “Ruleau saw plenty of action in the second half, scored two points on a pair of free throws and did a fine job defending against Mayer.” That may have been the first time Ruleau’s name showed up in a varsity basketball article, but it most definitely would not be the last.

Ruleau finished off his sophomore season with the varsity, scoring 223 points with a season-high of 20.

If there were whispers of Ruleau’s abilities following the 1979-80 season, they changed to yells after the first game of the 1980-81 year when he led the Maroons to an upset of the soon-to-be state champion Stephenson Eagles, 80-79. Ruleau scored a team-high 22 points in the contest and led a second-half comeback with Thad Badker, scoring eight of Menominee’s 19 points in the fourth quarter and Badker added nine in the narrow victory.

Menominee finished the regular season with a 17-3 record overall and 9-1 in the GNC, and Ruleau led the way in each game. His season was highlighted by outings of 28, 27 and 26 points and he added a 15-point, 8-assist, 18-rebound game.

In the playoffs his junior year, he scored 13 points in the district finals against Gwinn and then had back-to-back 28 point games, the first coming in a regional opener against Gladwin and the next in a regional final loss to Manistee.

Ruleau scored 427 points in his junior year for an average of 18.57 per game, earning him an All-State honorable mention nod in addition to his truckload of Upper Peninsula awards.

On the court, Ruleau — who stood 6-foot-3 — was big enough to play a forward position but could do everything so well he saw a lot of time at one of the guards and was a leading assist man in his two full seasons on the squad.

“He just had a great physical ability about him,” Peterson said. “He was a great all-around offensive player and could play any position he was needed at. And for as good as he was offensively he was just as good defensively. We could put him on the other team’s best player and still knew he would have more than enough for the offensive side.”

With his two-year point total now at a smooth 650 and his senior season right in front of him, Ruleau picked up right he left off in his junior season as he led Menominee to an undefeated regular season while averaging 19.32 points per game in the regular season. His scoring outbursts included games of 32, 27, 22, 20 and a game against Stephenson where he had 28 points and was the saving grace for the Maroons in the second half.

“I still remember in that game against Stephenson at halftime we knew we had to find a way to get the ball in Al’s hands,” Peterson said. “We did and he came out and had a great second half and led us to that victory like he always did.”

After the game where he scored 32 against Gladstone in the second-to-last game of the regular season, Ruleau’s career point total was sitting at 996 points with one final home game remaining against Gwinn. With 2:08 remaining in the first quarter of that game, Ruleau nailed a jumper to bring him to a place that at that point only two Maroons had gotten to — the 1,000-point club.

The playoffs in Ruleau’s senior season saw his best run yet as the Maroons made it all the way down to the state semifinals. In five games to that point, Ruleau scored 24, 25, 24, 22 and 32 for an average of 25.4 per game, and in the process he passed Dewey Bellisle on the all-time career scoring list.

One of Ruleau’s best features on the court was that he never shied away from the big moment, and that was never more clear than when the Maroons took on Mt. Pleasant in the state quarterfinals where he went off for the 32-point game.

“He was never afraid of the spotlight on the basketball court,” Peterson said. “That Mt. Pleasant game was the best game of the year for him and for the team. He really rose to the occasion that night.”

Ruleau’s high school basketball career ended in the state semifinals against Okemos where he scored 14 points to bring his career total to 1,158 — and just like the two before him, he did it without a 3-point line. He finished his senior season with 508 points for an average of 20.32 per game, becoming the only All-State player to average over 20 points a game and lead his team in assists.

While he dominated on the basketball court, hoops was not the only sport Ruleau was a part of. He also was a two-way starter on the football team as a junior and senior and ran cross country, where he placed eighth at U.P. Finals one year.

After high school, Ruleau attended Northern Michigan University where he was a letterwinner in 1984, 1986 and 1987 and he captained the 1986-87 squad with Bill Harris. After college, he coached boys and girls varsity and JV basketball in Peshtigo for 12 years.