Living More Than a Dream: Signing Day Recruit Realizes Two Dreams

Chris StephensCorrespondent IIApril 1, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 11: The Navy Midshipmen celebrate their victory after a game against the Army Black Knights on December 11, 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Midshipmen won 31-17. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Hunter Martin/Getty Images

It’s been two months since National Signing Day and most of the anxiousness has died down about where recruits will sign. Like most people, I got enjoyment out of watching players de-commit from schools I dislike (Florida, Tennessee and Auburn), and seeing others change their minds and go with my favorite (Georgia).

I have to admit, I saw some pretty clever tactics from recruits this year as they revealed their choice. As a Georgia fan, I definitely can’t forget when Carver-Columbus (Ga.) running back Isaiah Crowell pulled a bulldog puppy up to the table to officially commit and sign with the Bulldogs.

There are other times when you see athletes place three hats on the table and pick up the school’s hat that they will sign with.

However, I’m not here to talk about those stories. They’ve had enough press and they’re no longer the center of a coach’s universe, as most coaches are prepping for the upcoming season and starting on next year’s class.

There is one story of which I recently heard that is one that I feel defeats all signing day stories by a long shot.

The Lifetime Network has a new show on Sunday nights entitled Coming Home. What this show does is allow viewers a look at reunions of military personnel and their families after long deployments. In the show’s opening episode, there was a story that struck a nerve inside of me, mainly because I am prior military.

Jeremiah Rutledge III is an athlete in every sense of the word. He can play on both sides of the ball and even returns kicks. During his junior year, his father Jeremiah Rutledge Jr., could be heard on home videos shouting “That’s my boy,” as his son played on the gridiron at Clarksville Northeast High School in Clarksville, Tenn.

Sadly, during his senior year, the elder Rutledge was deployed to Iraq. Thus, his “That’s my boy,” chant was noticeably absent from the stands.

Even with his dad gone, the younger Rutledge still impressed colleges enough to where he had multiple offers to play at the next level. In the end, he decided to go with a school that would set him up for a great future—Navy.

The few days prior to the big day, Rutledge said it was a tough year not having his dad around. He said that it was hard for him that his dad would not be there on one of the biggest days of his life.

So, on National Signing Day, Rutledge entered his high school auditorium with the rest of his teammates who were set to sign with colleges as well. Little did he know, there was a surprise waiting.

After giving a small speech about why he chose Navy, Rutledge looked down. Out of the back stepped his father, who returned with his common chant, “That’s my boy.”

As he looked up, son met his father’s eyes and burst into tears, rising up from his seat to greet his dad with a hug. As tears flowed from both, National Signing Day had a moment that will be frozen in time for one kid. And, this time, it’s not for selfish reasons or the feel of a sense of entitlement. This time, it was the bond between father and son as the son realized his dream of signing to play college football as his proud father looked on.