Article courtesy of The Daily Advisor
By: Glenn Guilbeau
BATON ROUGE — Ruffin Rodrigue Jr., a gregarious and popular former LSU football player turned successful restaurateur, died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack. He was 53.
Rodrigue owned Ruffino's restaurant in Baton Rouge and Ruffino's On the River in Lafayette.
"Our whole LSU family is mourning the loss of a great friend and a great Tiger," LSU football coach Ed Orgeron said via Twitter on Wednesday. "Ruffin, you will be sorely missed by us all. Rest in peace."
Friends said they were concerned about Rodrigue in recent weeks because he had not been taking care of himself.
"Ruffino's is saddened to announce that owner and founder, Ruffin Rodrigue Jr., passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack on Tuesday," said Blanche Gallagher, public relations coordinator of Ruffino's, in a statement on Wednesday. "The staff extend their thoughts and prayers to his family during this time."
Rodrigue was an All-Southeastern Conference offensive guard at LSU in the 1988 season when the Tigers won the SEC championship. A native of Thibodaux, he signed with LSU in 1986 out of Thibodaux High School. He played four seasons at LSU from 1986-89. He became LSU's starting left guard as a sophomore in 1987 and was a mainstay of the offensive line for three seasons.
Rodrigue's father, Ruffin Rodrigue Sr. of Thibodaux, played center at LSU from 1962-64.
Ruffino's in Baton Rouge has been a popular spot for national media members as well as LSU fans before and after LSU football, basketball and baseball games for decades.
Rodrigue and former restaurant partner Peter Sclafani were named Louisiana Restaurant Association restaurateurs of the year in 2014.
Rodrigue graduated in marketing from LSU and worked for Mockler Beverage in Baton Rouge before becoming general manager of DiNardo's restaurant, which was at the location of the current Ruffino's in Baton Rouge on Highland Road and opened in 1998.
After DiNardo was fired late in the 1999 season, Rodrigue eventually took over the restaurant and changed its name to Ruffino's in 2000. He then opened Ruffino's On the River in Lafayette in 2013 at what was the location of Cochon restaurant.
"Prior to his death, Ruffin was a vocal advocate for Louisiana restaurants, fighting for grants and relief for restaurants hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic," Gallagher said. "Ruffin began his journey with Ruffino's in 1998 with an understanding that he wanted to create something special, and not just another restaurant. His goal was to develop a place where people could come to celebrate life, regardless of the occasion."
Former LSU center Blake Miller of Alexandria roomed with Rodrigue during summers while at LSU.
"When I first met him, he was just like he would always be - life of the party, friends with everybody," Miller said from his insurance office in Austin, Texas. "Just a great person. I can't say a negative thing about him. Everybody loved Ruffin, and everybody loved being around Ruffin."
Miller is a year younger than Rodrigue and got to LSU in 1987.
"I looked up to him because he played before me and helped me," he said. "He really cared about LSU. It just meant a lot to him - the fact that he was playing where his dad played. He was so proud to be an LSU Tiger. The players loved him. All the coaches loved him because he played so hard."
Miller said he bumped into Rodrigue and his two young children at a Mardi Gras parade in Baton Rouge in 2019.
"He was just like he always was," he said. "Having a great time. He knew so many people. We had lots of great times together."
Funeral arrangements are pending.