You can hear the exhaustion in his voice when Rushaune Vilane describes his daily schedule.
His alarm goes off at 5 a.m.- long before he’d like to get up. His sister won’t allow him to oversleep. If he’s still in bed after the alarm sounds, she calls his phone or turns the lights on in his room. There’s no time to be late. He’s got a bus to catch.
It’s 6 a.m. and still dark when he heads out the door of his Woonsocket home en route to Cumberland where he will board a bus to Bishop Hendricken. He tries to squeeze in a little sleep on the bus, well aware the day ahead of him will be a long and rigorous one .By the time he returns home nine or ten hours later, it’s often close to 8 p.m. (even later during basketball season)..Then there’s homework, dinner and preparation for the next day’s grind.
He insists the routine is well worth it. A two-sport athlete who has been a member of multiple state championship teams since arriving at Hendricken two years ago, Vilane is considered one of the state’s top football players.
“I knew going to Hendricken would put me in a better situation after high school, for my future,” he said.
It has. With two years remaining in high school, the 6”2”, 227 pound strong defensive end has already received a Division I offer from the University of Rhode Island.
Vilane’s success wouldn’t be possible without his home team – his family. The youngest of five raised by a single mom, his family support has provided Vilane with the opportunity to achieve his goals both athletically and academically at Hendricken.
“I’m very close to my family. My mom (Rushie Strong) is my role model. She stresses academics and always made sure we had everything we needed,” said Vilane.
Rakema Williams,, his oldest sister, could be considered the home team captain. Each day as the sun begins to rise she drives her youngest brother 20 minutes from their Woonsocket home to the bus stop. At the end of each day, after she drops her own son off at football practice in Woonsocket she heads to Warwick to pick up Vilane.
“Everyone helps me. My sisters usually pack my lunch at night and make sure I have everything ready for the next day so I’m not scrambling in the morning. They drive me. They really help me out. My whole family does. They always want me to be ready,” said Vilane. “They support me and really want me to do well.”
Vilane maintains the days that seem to last forever are well worth it.
“It’s hard. The days can be really long. Some days you think, ‘do you really want this?’ I do. I really want it that bad,” said Vilane.
Already the grind has paid off.
Vilane made the varsity team his rookie year, a rare feat at Hendricken.
”I was a freshman. I thought it was going to be a learning year and sophomore year I’d get going.,” said Vilane.
But he was thrust into the Hendricken lineup right away.
“The coaches trusted me and gave me opportunities on the field and I took them. I had a good year.,” he said.
So good that as a freshman, he received his first Division I offer from URI.
“It was a blessing. I was so excited. I called my mom right after. I was so proud. I know my mom wants this and she pushes me every day,” Vilane “I want to show her I want to give back to her for what she’s done.”
The following year, Vilane faced changes on the field and obstacles off.
With the Hawks shorthanded due to Covid and injuries, Vilane moved from defensive to the offensive line.
“They needed me to fill a spot on the offensive line and they wanted me to step up and play it,” said Vilane. “It was hard transitioning from my favorite position to playing strictly offense, but that’s where the team needed me so I stepped right up and did the job and we completed the task at hand.”
The Hawks won the state championship – the second straight for Vilane and fourth straight for Hendricken.
After football Vilane headed to the basketball court where he started the season on junior varsity and transitioned to varsity as the season progressed.
“The days were even longer than football,” he said. “I’d get done with jay vee practice at 4:30 and then go to varsity practice at 5 until 7 p.m.”
Masked by his success was an internal struggle.
The apartment he lived with his family was sold and the new landlord raised the rent. Unable to afford the increase, Vilane and his family were forced to leave. He moved in with his sister and nephew.
“We were cramped in a two bedroom apartment. Cramped for months. I went through a little depression, but that’s what motivated me to come to Hendricken every single day and do what I need to do so my family doesn’t have to go through that again.“
His living situation has since improved. His intense schedule and family’s strong support remains the same.
“I grind on the field so hopefully one day, they won’t have to,” he said.
As he begins his junior year, Vilane is back on defense playing his favorite position. The Hawks graduated a load of talent, but Vilane insists this is not a rebuilding year.
“There are a lot of good players on this team,“said Vilane. ”We came to every summer practice, worked hard every day and bonded. Players are hungry. They want their time to shine. We’re coming to play.”
He’s focused on the season, not what will come after graduation in 2024.
“That’s (college) is in the back of my mind. Right now I am just focused on us as a team getting better every single day, going 1-0 every single week and trying to get to our goal at the end.”
“He’s been a huge part of our success. High character kid, hard worker and leader,” said Hendricken coach Keith Croft. “Just an extremely coachable kid and a great teammate. Athletically, I expect him to be one of the top defensive players in the state the next two seasons.”
Watch Rhode Island high school football: Bishop Hendricken vs Portsmouth – Friday, September 23 at 7:00 pm ET on YurView NE (Cox channel 4) and streaming for FREE at watch.yurview.com.