By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The phone call came while he was working out at the Tinsley Center on the campus of Bridgewater State University.
Rob Ruggiero, a standout defensive lineman for the Bears as a senior last season, was going through his daily routine on Wednesday when he learned the Indianapolis Colts wanted to sign him to a free-agent contract.
Ruggiero, who played three seasons at Springfield College before transferring to BSU, attended the Colts' rookie mini-camp in mid-May and had been hoping the team would bring him back.
Now, Ruggiero is part of the Colts' 90-man roster and took part in his first practice on Thursday.
Ruggiero has been doing his running at Swenson Field and lifting weights at the Tinsley Center, staying in shape while waiting for the call.
The Colts signed Ruggiero after waiving injured linebacker Shawn Loiseau of Merrimack College. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Ruggiero will be switching from defensive end to inside linebacker with the Colts, who host the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night.
"He was here every day running or lifting,'' said BSU coach Chuck Denune. "The Colts told him when they sent him home from mini-camp to stay in shape in case they did call.
"He was hoping so hard it would happen. The first day of our training camp (on Monday afternoon), he told me, 'It's hard to be here.'''
Ruggiero, an Acton resident who sat out the 2012 season, was the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference defensive player of the year in his lone season with the Bears.
He was tied for third in the nation with 231/2 tackles for a loss of 138 yards and was sixth with 12 sacks.
Ruggiero, an All-New England and All-ECAC North selection, was picked as the top defensive lineman at the All American Bowl, winning the Jim Marshall Award.
"We knew we had a great player on our hands when he came here,'' said Denune. "When he transferred in, he had a whole year to prepare for football and it helped him immensely.
"As good as he was last season, he's gotten so much better the last six months with all the training and lifting he's done. He's doing everything right.
"It's amazing for him. If you play the game, you dream of playing in the NFL and now he's able to do it. I think he's got a shot with his attributes and he'll put in the work that it takes.''
Ruggiero joins defensive lineman Nnamdi Obukwelu of Brockton, who also signed with the Colts as a free agent. The Harvard University product has three tackles in two preseason games.
NFL teams must reduce their rosters from 90 to 75 players by next Tuesday and then trim down to 53 on Aug. 30.