Furman and VMI Showcase Rare Hula Bowl Stars

Rob Soderholm and Ryan Miller will showcase the Southern Conference in Saturday’s Hula Bowl, effectively ending long droughts for their schools.

Craig Jones was VMI’s lone Hula Bowl player before Rob Soderholm
Source: VMI Football Media Guide

This weekend, the Hula Bowl will take place in Orlando for the second straight year and fourth year in total since it’s resurrection after an 11-year hiatus. The Hula Bowl does not have as high profile names as the Senior Bowl, or even the East-West Shrine Bowl, but plenty of talent will be on display. Several players from smaller schools will get a rare chance for exposure.

Two such players are Furman’s Ryan Miller and VMI’s Rob Soderholm. Both Southern Conference standouts are their schools’ second Hula Bowl players.

Ryan Miller was one of the best right ends in the entire country, catching 72 passes for 762 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Paladins and was a consensus All-American.

Highlights of his year include two games with over ten catches and four games with over 80 receiving yards. For his career, Miller caught 151 passes for 2146 yards and 28 touchdowns and Furman’s first three-time All-American.

Across the conference, VMI long snapper Rob Soderholm earned an invite to both the Hula Bowl, NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, and Senior Bowl. Soderholm was a SpecialTeamsU All-American and Hero Sports All-American and garnered numerous second and third team honors this season.

Both players’ appearances end lengthy Hula Bowl appearance droughts for their schools and make them the second players to represent their schools in the game. Miller is the Paladins’ first Hula Bowl player since Orlando Ruff played in the game in 1999.

Ruff was one of Furman’s greatest linebackers ever as he totaled 468 tackles in his career and was a three-time all-SoCon player. In his senior year, he gained national recognition as a First Team AFCA All-American and was invited to the Blue-Gray Classic along with the Hula Bowl. Ruff enjoyed a seven-year NFL career with 360 tackles, four fumble recoveries, and three interceptions.

To find VMI’s last Hula Bowl player, you would have to go even further back. Legendary VMI kicker Craig Jones earned an invitation to the Hula Bowl to cap a career that saw him make 55 field goals and 56 of his 60 extra points with three All-SoCon team nominations. Jones’ best performance saw him kick five field goals, including the Keydets’ first 50-yard FG against William & Mary in 1979, a school record. Jones kicked two extra points and a 34-yard field goal to help the East win the Hula Bowl 17-10.

While both Miller and Soderholm look to have solid pro careers, their mere breaking of their respective schools’ Hula Bowl droughts are a remarkable achievement in itself.