Francis Scott Key head football coach Josh Rutter, a Carroll County Public Schools graduate and native to the county, recently was named area high school Coach of the Week by the Baltimore Ravens.
Rutter grew up in Westminster before he moved to Union Bridge when he was in eighth grade, he said via email. He attended FSK from 2000 through 2004, where he played football and enjoyed a lot of success.
After high school, Rutter said he received a full athletic scholarship to the College of William & Mary, in Virginia, where he was a four-year starter and captain as a senior. He graduated in 2009 with a kinesiology degree and took a job at McDaniel College as a graduate assistant.
Rutter said he had aspirations of doing some type of career where he could impact young people while still being around athletics.
“Naturally, I gravitated to the teaching profession and received my master’s in Physical Education and Health from McDaniel,” he said.
While taking an Adapted P.E. course, Rutter said his instructor noted he should look into Special Education, so he took multiple Special Ed classes, along with the Praxis, and received his third certification.
After receiving his master’s degree in education and three years of coaching collegiately, he accepted a teaching position in special education at FSK, he said. He worked as an assistant on the varsity football team for three years before taking a season off.
When the head coaching position opened up in the spring of 2016, Rutter said he talked with his wife, prayed about it, and they both felt like now would be the time for him to pursue this opportunity. He took over a program that had gone 7-72 over the previous eight seasons and, after going 1-9 in 2016, guided the Eagles to a 6-3 record in 2017, their first winning season since 2006.
The Times caught up with Rutter to talk about his recent season, and being named the Ravens Coach of the Week.
Q: How does it feel to have won Baltimore Ravens Coach of the Week? What all did that entail?
A: Being the Baltimore Ravens Coach of the Week was a great honor and something that really surprised me. I knew we had some special kids on our team this year and the coaches in our program worked extremely hard both in the offseason and through the start of our early schedule. I reiterated to our players that the award wasn’t for the things that I did, but the success that they had on the field. I definitely saw it as great recognition for the things we were doing as a program. The week that I received the award, my athletic director and I were able to have lunch at [M&T Bank] Stadium, take a tour of the facilities, and go on the field where they posted mine and the school’s name on the jumbotron, which was a really cool experience. In December, my wife and I will attend a Ravens game where they’ll announce the Ravens Coach of the Year from the 10 recipients of the award; that should be an exciting time to be around a lot of very deserving coaches from good programs.
Q: What do you love about coaching? What are some of the challenges?
I truly love the competitive nature and the opportunity to work with some great people while coaching. Having the chance to positively impact young people’s lives, not just on the football field, but in many aspects of their lives makes this a very rewarding position. Coaching and football present so many great challenges and life lessons, there really is no other sport like it. The idea that 11 guys could be working in unison and one person not doing their job can impact a play proves what a total team sport football is.
As far as challenges go, from the Xs and Os standpoint most coaches do something similar. You have to be efficient on offense and get your playmakers the ball while your defense has to be sound and limit the big plays. The small things from a program standpoint are what makes the job difficult. Not all the players have the same desire or ability so getting everyone on board with your vision can be a challenge. In the same breath, you’d like to play everyone the same but it’s not possible when fielding a competitive program so you always have either players or parents who feel they or their child should be playing more. Lastly, making certain the players understand their title of Student Athlete begins with the student portion can be a challenge. No matter how much you impress upon kids that their education is ultimately what will take them different places, as a coach it sometimes feels like you’re more invested in that than the kids. Part of that comes with maturity but it’s another life lesson that we’re constantly teaching as coaches.
A: For me, Carroll County has always been home. Although I went away for college, I knew I wanted to come back here to teach and raise a family. My wife and I are both from this area and went to FSK so that was an easy choice. Not only that, but I have family all throughout Carroll County. I actually coached against two of my cousins who play for Century, against one of my former players from McDaniel, and will have siblings coming into FSK’s football program next year. I’m invested in this community and know so many people so my hope was that I could help bring back some of the past tradition FSK enjoyed from when I played there and the teams before and after as well.
Q: How does it feel to have a strong season, and to have built the program up after it struggled for many years?
A: This season was very exciting and definitely a memorable one for those involved. We constantly preach to our guys that doing the little things will allow them to be successful so it was great that they were able to do the things we asked and see success from it. The key now will be for us to not expect those type of results and continue to put in the hard work during the offseason. We’re losing a lot of talent from our senior class, but we also return some really good, quality players who have a lot of varsity experience. I think everyone’s hope is that we can build off the foundation that our graduating class provided this year and take the next step to becoming a playoff team in the future. Regardless though, it was an awesome season and the players and their leadership, were the sole reason that we took big step forward as a program.
Q: What was your favorite moment/memory of the season?
A: There’s a number of moments and memories from this season that will have a lasting impact on me. For starters, I think one of the best moments was leaving the field week one after a convincing win. Our players were excited, the fans were excited, and I think us as a coaching staff saw that we had the makings of a really good group. Next was warming up before our Homecoming game against Liberty. Although the outcome of the game was not what we wanted, a fond memory I had of playing was having a great crowd, students excited about the team, and having a chance for the post-season. All of those same feelings came back prior to our homecoming game. The parents and students had packed the stadium, the game had playoff implications for both teams, and our guys got to experience a big game atmosphere at FSK. Finally, having the seniors win their final home game at Key and walk of the field with a winning season was really special. They put their mark on the program and I think they realized just how important and worthwhile their contributions were to the school.
Q: What are your thoughts on the recent discussions around Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), and how does that impact how you feel about the game?
A: While CTE and football has been a widely discussed topic, I think the steps that are being taken overall to make the game safer have been a huge plus. With the changes to equipment, rules regarding penalties, and the awareness for us coaches, I think the impact will help make the game safer and attract more athletes in the future. Students take risks any time they participate in competitive athletics, but if we become more diligent about the way we teach blocking and tackling techniques, along with encouraging students to report any injuries they may have, we can keep players safe and hopefully reduce the impact on future student athletes.