Johnny Rutledge was a starting linebacker on the National Championship team at the University of Florida. Rutledge then went on to become a second round pick and play five years in the National Football League. Today we are going to flashback to when Rutledge was a Gator and relive his dream all over again.
As a kid, Rutledge grew up in Belle Glade, Florida, this is where Rutledge knew to love the game of football.
“As a kid I grew up in the small town of Belle Glade FL, football is everything there for the most part,” Rutledge said. “This is where my respect and passion for football started as a young kid and continues today.”
Growing up in Belle Glade, Rutledge was about to see a lot of players from his hometown go to the University of Florida and have success.
“I saw players like Ray McDonald Sr, Fred Taylor, Reidel Anthony, Jimmie Spencer, Tommie Duhart, Rodney Weston, and Louis Oliver, ” Rutledge said. “The University of Florida had been good to those guys, I felt as if I was home from the first moment I stepped foot in Gainesville.”
It was no secret that Rutledge wanted to be a Gator and he didn’t even need the Ol’ Ball Coach to convince him either.
“I didn’t need a pitch I remember when Coach Spurrier came to my house before he said a word I told him and Coach Franks that I was coming, I’m a Gator,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge made no secrets about being a Gator and the rest of the College football coaches seemed to pick up on that. Rutledge did however still take official visits to see schools he saw on T.V.
“I knew I was going to be a Gator and everyone else did as well, so all of my visits where to go to places that I’d seen on T.V,” Rutledge said. “I took a visit to Notre Dame I had great respect for Coach Lou Holtz and the program that he’d built but it was cold and that was my first time seeing snow.”
Rutledge also took visits to the University of Colorado and Kansas State.
“I went to University of Colorado, I always wanted to visit the stadium and I loved the atmosphere in Boulder,” Rutledge said. “I cancelled my trip to Texas and went to Kansas State they really came on strong. Coach Bob Stoops was the Defensive Coordinator at the time they played an aggressive style of defense that I liked, and they promised me that I’d be a day one starter at MLB.”
After enjoying his trips to South Bend (Notre Dame), Boulder (Colordao) and Manhattan (Kansas State), Rutledge took his final visit to Florida (Gators) where he explained again that he felt as if he was home.
After committing and enrolling in Florida, Rutledge really enjoyed his time playing for Coach Spurrier.
“It was the time of my life, his confidence rubbed off on us,” Rutledge said. “There wasn’t a game that we felt like we’d lose, not one. He knew we were good and he let us and everyone else know it.”
The one thing that Coach Spurrier instilled in Rutledge’s memory was to know what you play for and who came before you.
“These guys that came before us set a standard that we had to live up to and raise the bar,” Rutledge said. “As a young Linebacker I knew about the Wilber Marshall’s, Scott Brantley, Carlton Miles, Ed Robinson and Godfrey Myles of the world. I had a great respect of who I was playing for and expectations to live up to.”
Rutledge had a lot of great memories of his playing days at Florida.
“People tend to thank that winning is one of the greatest memories players have, but for me it’s going through the process of what it takes to win championships the things that people don’t see,” Rutledge said. “Waking up at 5 a.m. for workouts, being pushed to limits that would make most people quit on a daily basis; during those tough times as a team, a brotherhood was formed and that bond couldn’t be broken.”
Rutledge went on to say that the process of preparing to win games, made winning that much sweeter. Rutledge also has a message for the younger players thinking about becoming Gators.
“Know your Gator history, know who came before you that helped build the very foundation on which you now stand,”Rutledge said. “Knowing that, what are you willing to give to raise the bar and standards of the program to take Gator Football to even greater heights?”
Since his time at UF and the NFL, Rutledge has started writing a children’s book series called Grant’s Sports Adventures. Rutledge is also an Academic Coach at North Atlanta High School.
We want to thank Rutledge for allowing us to go back in time with him and relive those days as a Gator. There is nothing better than hearing the stories of fellow Gators that came before you. It’s great to be a Florida Gator.