Former University of Toledo football coach Tom Amstutz once told the Eastern Maumee Chamber of Commerce that his student-athletes spend more time in the classroom than on the football field.
He was not referring to their studies — he meant their involvement in leadership activities and classes specific to football, such as seminars on how to deal with media.
There is one local high school football coach who also thinks out of the box when it comes to leadership skills for his student-athletes.
Eastwood gridiron coach Jerry Rutherford and his players were honored at a board meeting Monday night for their continued participation in Bowling Green’s Walk for Hope/Out of the Darkness Walk over the last couple years. The event was sponsored by the Wood County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
“When you go over there for a walk, they had a number of different things going on to make you aware of depression and causes of suicide. I thought it was good for our kids to be involved in it,” Rutherford said.
|Eastwood football coach Jerry Rutherford consults on the
sidelines with a player during a game. (Press file photo by
“We would get 35 to 40 kids involved in it. It would be like a two-and-a-half mile walk through downtown Bowling Green. It was pretty well attended to. It was always a nice day — something else to do. It was in early October, it was warm,” Rutherford continued.
“You see a lot of people over there and you’d see some people you didn’t realize how they had been affected by a family member or someone who took their own life, and you’d be like, ‘Oh, I never knew that.’ There would be people who would come up who would be like, ‘Thanks for coming.’ It was pretty neat.
“We were the only (football team) over there that took part. I mean, there were a lot of people, though. I would say that. There were groups, families and stuff. It was pretty interesting.
“We had a lot of our guys raise money and our football program gave money, and we went over and walked on a Sunday afternoon. We had the walk again in 2008, so we got involved in it then.”
The football team was originally scheduled to receive the award during a Thanksgiving, Hope, and Remembrance Program at Bowling Green High School last November, but the team’s football banquet had been scheduled the same night.
So, Bill Donnelly from the Children’s Resource Center in BG came to Monday’s board meeting to present the plaque to the team.
“He said they had 700 walkers (in BG), which is one of the largest walks. He said the largest walk was in Chicago — they had 1,000, and in Bowling Green they had 700,” Rutherford said. “It’s a national thing through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention — they have these Out of the Darkness Walks all over the nation.”
Eastwood Superintendent Brent Welker sent a statement to The Press, stating, “Obviously, we are extremely proud of Coach Rutherford and our student-athletes for participating in the Out of the Darkness walks. We need to build awareness regarding depression and its impact on young people. By standing up as a team, they give strength and hope to young people who are battling with depression and thoughts of suicide.”
Things like this are nothing new for Rutherford. He was the one who once took his players to an equine therapeutic riding facility to improve their agility. He was the one who took players to watch Bowling Green State University football practices to study the offense under then-coach Urban Meyer.
Rutherford is also the one who got to introduce former Cleveland Browns football coach Sam Rutigliano at a district-wide Fellowship of Christian Athletes dinner.
“(Jerry) actually came in to a coaches’ clinic where Sam Rutigliano, the former football coach for the (Cleveland) Browns was speaking, and Jerry came in and gave his testimony of how FCA has affected his life,” Northwest Ohio FCA Campus Director Matt Medina told The Press.
Medina, a 1989 graduate of Clay, was active in FCA as a high school student-athlete. Medina says Rutherford helps lead the charge throughout the region.
“Jerry’s involvement with the FCA is because of his sons. Because his sons were involved in FCA, he has opened up his home, letting them meet there occasionally. He has also given me the opportunity to speak to his football team,” Medina said.
“He is really intellectual. He’s been coaching at the same school for nearly 30 years, so I mean he’s had an impact at the school in all ways. I hate to take away any of his fire because he’s a great person to listen to and he’s a great guy to let me into the school this past year to let me speak to the football team,” Medina continued.
Rutherford said, “Matt’s a good guy. I really like Matt. I’ve gotten to know him over the last couple years, and he is a really good man,”
“I think it is (FCA) good for our kids. I don’t really get involved in it here at school as much. We have our own leader,” Rutherford added.
Coach Rutherford’s son, Craig, won a Humanitarian Award from FCA, and last fall was helping as an Eastwood assistant coach. Craig finished his senior year playing football for the Bowling Green Falcons in 2009 and is now teaching middle school mathematics in the Anthony Wayne district.