Corey Rue, right, came up huge for the Panthers in this past weekend’s 2012 season opener when he picked off a pass late in the fourth quarter and returned it for a TD to help Albany seal its win against Richmond. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Corey Rue has gone back and forth between linebacker and defensive back for much of his career.
After his performance as a DB during Saturday’s season-opening win against Richmond, he may have found a stable home in the Albany Panthers’ secondary.
Rue, who returned an interception for a touchdown late in Saturday’s fourth quarter and led the team with six tackles, was named the PIFL Defensive Player of the Week — an honor that had him beaming before Tuesday’s practice.
“I’m still kind of shocked about the whole thing,” said Rue, a graduate of Division III Concordia (Ala.). “When I watch (the interception return) on film, it still amazes me.”
WHO: Albany Panthers (1-0) at Louisiana Swashbucklers (1-0).
WHAT: Rematch of last year’s league championship game.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Lake Charles, La.
RADIO: 97.3 FM.
The return also amazed a packed Civic Center on Saturday night.
Rue picked off an errant pass from Richmond quarterback Antwon Young and weaved his way in and out of blockers nearly the entire length of the field before diving into the end zone with 6:28 left in the game, giving the Panthers enough cushion to hang on for the 40-28 win.
But what Rue didn’t know at the time was that Albany coach Lucious Davis was screaming from the sideline for his secondary to change its coverage.
“It was pretty much the same coverage and the same play that they had been hitting the guy underneath on all game,” Panthers coach Lucious Davis said. “I didn’t like that coverage, and I wanted them to play man-to-man. When the play started, I thought they had us on that.”
Instead, Rue came up with the play of his life.
Rue, a native of Birmingham, was one of Albany’s leading tacklers last season but rotated between linebacker and defensive back — something he also did in college. Even though Rue is comfortable switching positions, Davis said he has found a home in the secondary this season.
“He came into camp more focused than he did last year, and he has been making those same plays all camp,” Davis said.
BOYER ALSO HONORED: Panthers place kicker Geoff Boyer earned his teammates’ respect last season, and now the former kicker at Middle Tennessee State has earned a full-time starting job.
He was one of two kickers on Albany’s roster last season — along with Wes Virgilio — but Boyer emerged as the go-to guy in the postseason. He is the only kicker on the team this season, and his season-opening performance Saturday against Richmond gave him Special Teams Player of the Week honors in the PIFL.
Boyer, who is known for his ability to drop kick, was 3-for-5 in PATs and 2-for-3 in field goal attempts, hitting from 29 and 28 yards out.
“We have a whole lot of confidence in him,” Davis said. “Geoff is the type of kid who has a lot of confidence in himself. I believe last year, at times, I showed I didn’t have the confidence in him by going with Wes at times. Later in the year Geoff came on and played the playoffs, and he has been making the kicks. He does everything we ask him to do, and he makes the kicks.”
Before Tuesday’s practice, Boyer said he felt his team’s confidence in him.
“Coach said that this is the first time since he has been here that the team isn’t getting down on anybody, and everybody is a team and trying to pick each other up,” Boyer said. “So I feel like the team has confidence in me. I proved myself last year and even this last game.”
BIG CROWD IN THE CIVIC CENTER FOR OPENER: Fans streamed into the Albany Civic Center this past Saturday by the thousands to witness the Panthers’ 2012 season opener.
Panthers GM Will Carter reported the official attendance as 5,275 — which is several hundred more than last year’s season opener and several thousand more than the average home attendance for other PIFL teams.
Columbus had the second-highest attendance in the PIFL last week, drawing 2,500 fans for its home game Saturday against Knoxville.
The Panthers set a franchise attendance record of 7,400 in last year’s SIFL Championship game against Louisiana.