Seth Root/The Broadside
Ken Ruettgers didn’t realize that he could play professional football in the NFL until he was a sophomore in college.
Up until that point, for Ruettgers, football was just something you do with your neighborhood buddies. It wasn’t till two of his teammates told him that they were no longer going to practice with him that Ruettgers got curious and asked his buddies why.
“When I got to college, in my sophomore year, two of the guys I worked out with told me that they could not work out with me next week, ” said an animated Ruettgers. ” I asked them why, and they told me they were going to the NFL columbine. I asked them what that was, and they told me all about it. When they finished, I thought it was so cool and great that I thought that I could make it to the NFL.”
But saying it and achieving it are two different things. It meant some sacrifices had to be made if Ruettgers wanted to get into the NFL.
“I had to really work and dedicate myself to the craft. So, when my friends went out and were bar hopping, I was lifting weights,” said Ruettgers.
The hard work paid off for Ruettgers. After his college years, he became a 1st round pick in the NFL draft where the Green Bay Packers drafted him. Ruettgers vividly remembers just how suspenseful draft night was like for him.
“It [the NFL Draft] was a huge deal even back then,” said Ruettgers. “You know, on the day of the draft, you don’t know if you are going to be a high draft pick or if you are going to fall out of the first round or even get picked at all. There’s just always a few surprises. You hope you’re not on the wrong end of those surprises,” laughed Ruettgers as he sits in the room in his kitchen.
Once drafted, Ruettgers started playing for the Packers right out of the gate and even got a Super Bowl ring in 1997.
Looking back on his NFL career, Ruettgers says that playing against the best players in the world was really hard.
“It was scary playing against the best players around,” Ruettgers laughed. “Because you know, these guys are bigger, stronger, and faster in the pros, and the quarterbacks are older and more brittle, and so, the guys I was up against wanted to get by me and take out my quarterback.”
After his professional football career was over, Ruettgers, strangely, did not enter into the football commentating business. Instead, Ruettgers head out to Oregon, where he became a high school football coach and became a Central Oregon Community College professor.
“It is competitive to be a color commentator. I mean, I know people who want to be in that position, and it is a grind. Plus, you have to be dynamic and very charismatic in those roles, and I was more of a teacher-coach, ” said Ruettgers. “I just loved teaching technique and just loved seeing a light bulb go off in the athlete’s head when they realize that what works and that’s what I also love about teaching at COCC.”
To this day, Ken still says that he works on teaching skills. After all, that is the way to learn and grow.
“I still work on my craft as a teacher. That just being professional and being a craftsman or a craftswoman. That’s what I love about being part of COCC and being part of the social science department. We all love to teach and work on our craft.”