On this day in sports history

BY COLIN “BIG C” MACGUIRE

The Greenville Standard

 

Coach Jack Rutledge was born May 24, 1938 and died Jan. 24, 2019. Coach Rutledge’s affiliation with the University of Alabama Football program started in the summer/fall of 1957.

Rutledge played at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham. He played from 1954-56 on teams that went 27-1-2. They won back to back State Championship’s in 1955-56. Their last 25 games record was 24-0-1. He played for Coach Kenny Morgan.

Rutledge played on the Freshman Team in 1957. On Dec. 3, 1957, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was hired as head coach. In 1958, Rutledge married his high school sweetheart Norma Jean Wilson. He was converted from FB to guard. Rutledge was redshirted in 1958.

In 1960-61, Rutledge started at guard. He earned the nickname “The Governor” from Coach Bryant which for a strong resemblance to Governor John Patterson for the nickname.

His senior year (1961) Alabama won the national championship. After graduation, Rutledge was the head coach at Demopolis for three seasons and one season at Sheffield.

In 1966, Rutledge returned to Alabama as an assistant, coaching the centers. From 1966-83, he coached Paul Crane, Jim Krapf, Sylvester Croom and Dwight Stephenson. All were centers who were named first team All-America except Stephenson, who was named second  team.

Rutledge was also Dorm Director for Bryant Hall. He served in that capacity, twice, 1973-1982 and 1990-96.

In the summer of 1977, Rutledge was the speaker at the Butler County Alabama Alumni Association meeting in Greenville.

During his speech, he did the bagpipes. It was hilarious. That was the first time I met Coach Rutledge. Little did I know, I was going to get to know him real well.

In the spring of 1978, I transferred from the wrestling program to the football program. In the fall of 1978, I was able to eat at Bryant Hall. I got to know Miss Norma and their sons Tim and David.

Rutledge was the kicking game coach, along with coaching the centers. I was around Coach Rutledge a lot. The next spring semester, Coach Rutledge taught a class, Coaching Football. It was a fun course. It was taught in the projection at the coliseum.

I did a playbook for the class. Coach Rutledge said my blocking schemes were not good. I still made an A in the course. I could go on and on.

After retiring from the Alabama, Rutledge went Tuscaloosa Academy for several years. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with Dementia.

Sunday, May 20, 2018 was the last time I was able to see Coach Rutledge. Mr. Bill Lumpkin was celebrating his 90th birthday that day at the Bright Star Restaurant in Bessemer. Miss Norma saw me there. She and Coach’s birthday are three days apart.

Their family was with them. They came in the room. Coach Rutledge saw me and said “Hey Big Man”. He always said that to me. In my mind, he still remembers me, what I was thinking. What was sad, during the season, they were not able to go to the A Club Room.

A week before, he died he took a turn for the worst. Coach Rutledge was a great man and beloved by many. He was with the program before Coach Bryant and after.

Coach Rutledge has moved on, he will be remembered for a long, long, time.

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