As he prepares for his last season on the Savannah State University football team, senior safety Donald Rutledge says he plans to pursue a professional career in football whether on the field or coaching.
Rutledge is a civil engineering major at SSU and plans to use his degree in civil engineering to become a project manager.
“I don’t see myself digging any holes, but I do see myself telling others where to dig them,” he said.
Rutledge, number 21, has been playing at the university since January 2016.
He previously attended The Citadel, a well-known military college in South Carolina, before transferring to Savannah State to play for the football team.
Rutledge was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and raised in Sumter, S.C., where he attended Crestwood High School.
Rutledge is seen as a leader by other players on the team.
“Rut is a very influential person, and is a type of leader who leads by example. It’s easy for young guys to look up to him because he practices what he preaches,” said Darrell Bonner, junior cornerback.
Even on Rutledge’s “most relaxed day,” he goes to a full day of classes, then returns to his dorm room to play the video game, Fortnite. As he plays, he laments about the SSU game against at the University of Miami to his friends on his headset. The weekend before, the football team lost 77-0 in Coral Gables, Fla.
At 6 p.m., Rutledge changes into his workout uniform and heads to the campus to complete his day-off workout.
Isaiah Bennett, a junior safety, was at the Body Shop when Rutledge arrived.
“Donald is not scared of no challenge, he’s a hard worker, he loves the game football. Off the field he’s outgoing and just a cool person to be around,” Bennett said.
The following Tuesday morning, the team returns to the practice field. Rutledge shows effort and skill during the routines and drills. He’s not the target of the coach’s energy this day.
After practice, John Wilson, a senior cornerback said, “Rut does a good job letting the team know that he can do his part on and off the field. He plays safety, and I play corner so pretty much when he’s on my side he lets it be known it’s locked down.”
Other players agreed.
“Rut is a good guy who will help his teammates in any way he can. He is a leader in character and on the field as a football player. His determination is destined for greatness, which taught me a lot through the years that I’ve known him,” said Roddre Hardwick, outside linebacker.
Playing football has been a passion of Rutledge’s since he was 10 years old and he was ranked top 10 for tackles for the MEAC Conference in 2017.
He was on the radar of NFL scouts when they visited the school.