The greatest stories in sports are those forged in perseverance and tempered with competitiveness. Time and time again, we look to the pioneers who always held their heads up and refused to be denied their right to participate. While Amanda Ruller is far, far more accomplished than to be defined simply by two words, her embodiment of perseverance and competitiveness are the reason that she is currently standing, running, and training with the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff today.
Ruller is working with the Seahawks via the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, which can be read about in detail on the NFL Operations website. She has been with the team for only a brief period of time thus far, but she has made her presence felt, especially on the field. In addition to working with the running backs, Ruller has been on the field showing scout team looks against the offense and working directly with special teams units, as well. While many of us are not familiar with her background in Canadian athletics, she was a multi-sport athlete and decorated collegiate sprinter, even overlapping with Seahawks’ legend Jon Ryan while attending the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. But the sport of football is her true passion; she was recently coaching running backs, special teams, and strength and conditioning at McMaster University in Ontario. And like many of us, she grew up a fan of her hometown team.
“When Ruller, who is from Regina, Saskatchewan, would attend Saskatchewan Roughriders games as a kid, she would ask her dad if women could play football. His answer was the proper one for a father trying to empower a daughter to chase her dreams, but what Ruller came to realize is that society’s biases don’t always live up to a father’s ideals.
“He said, you can do anything the boys could do,” Ruller said. “And from there I went out and I said, ‘Can I play football? Can I play flag football?’ And I kept being told, ‘No, you can’t do this. No, you can’t do that. You can’t even volunteer to coach in football.’””
Rather than let the word “no” define or limit her potential, Ruller took it upon herself to forge a career path of her own; prior to joining the Seattle Seahawks, she traveled to Indianapolis to attend the NFL combine, by herself and with resume in hand. Here is a clip from yesterday’s presser where she describes her path to the NFL in her own words.
We also got to speak today to Amanda Ruller, who worked with Seahawks running backs during OTAs and minicamp as part of the NFL’s Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship program. She will also be back for training camp. pic.twitter.com/Wpbfc95Apc— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) June 14, 2022
In spite of the incessant nay-saying, Ruller welcomes the challenge. Possibly the only thing more familiar to her than the sport itself is the practice of having to constantly compete; not only as a record-setting multi-sport athlete, but also to prove that she belongs on a coaching staff, and even in the world of football at large. But Ruller is so far beyond simply proving that she belongs on a football field, and her resume backs this up; as a true competitor, she absolutely refuses to take “no” for an answer. Just listen to this clip from her brief time working with her hometown team in the CFL before heading south to the Northwest.
For an even deeper diver into Ruller’s tenacity, listen to her story of how she responded to being cut from the Los Angeles Temptation of the Legends Football League.
This isn’t an isolated experience, either; according to the Seattle Seahawks team website, Ruller did the exact same thing with Team Canada, who initially cut her for being “all speed and no hands,” according to John Boyle. In case you haven’t caught on by now, a major part of what drives Ruller’s competitive spirit isn’t only knowing that she belongs, but also that her presence in the league opens up doors and possibilities for other individuals like her. That is to say, this mission isn’t all about her, and she has proven time and time again that aptitude and commitment — not gender — define what makes a great coach.
“For me, one of my missions is to help young girls and women feel more comfortable within football,” Ruller said. “Because when I started, I wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t understand why I didn’t belong. I didn’t understand why people kept telling me, no, I can’t be in this industry. I said, ‘Just watch me. Watch me go forward. Watch me make this something for myself.’ And I want anyone that starts in football, whether that be media, coaching, personnel, trainers, to feel like they belong here, that they’re worthy. They can see an opportunity. I never saw that growing up. So I want to be that driving force for more women to think that I can do this. I can make a career out of this.”
Credit to the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff and players for doing their part in creating an environment that welcomes diversity on the team; Ruller has had nothing but good things to say about the organization thus far.
“Every single player and coach and everybody here welcomed me in,” she said. “And I want to put that out there, because a lot of people ask me that question, and I want to answer it. I felt so welcomed and so put into this organization for a reason—to help these guys. A lot of these guys said they’re not ready for women to be coming up in this industry, and maybe that’s the media, but these men have been learning from women their entire lives, whether that be mothers, teachers, sisters, grandmothers. And I’m just going to be part of that journey for them now.”
Ruller’s position as part of the Fellowship comes with no guarantees, and she is very aware of this. A major part of the program is the intent to give coaches like her an opportunity to showcase their capabilities so that they may find a position in the NFL, even if it is not with the team which initially hired them. And while Seattle has hired Aaron Curry and Will Tukuafu full-time after their initial stint as members of the Fellowship, Ruller is just relishing the opportunity and doing everything she can to drive her career to the next step, whether that is in the Pacific Northwest or elsewhere in the league.
“Maybe if I make a really good impression, kind of showcase my skills, insert myself where needed, I could make it happen for this team,” she said. “And if not this team, that’s OK, maybe another organization, but I feel like my compete level, everything I’ve done, whether it be bobsled, skeleton, Team Canada football, I was meant to compete and work at a high-performance industry and level. I feel like this is where I was born to work.”
“(Skeleton) actually takes a lot of guts, and that’s the type of person who I am,” Ruller said. “I came into this headfirst, going down this track and seeing what I can do and watch me go.”
Now, if you are like me and you aren’t overly familiar with variations of the bobsled, this is what Skeleton Bobsledding looks like.
Good luck to all athletes representing their nations at the Bobsled + Skeleton World Champs in #Canada. I had a great experience at my first world champs 2 years ago where the #frimpongdance was born. I dare someone to do it at the finish at this year’s Worlds @IBSFsliding pic.twitter.com/1MaL1183fl— Akwasi Frimpong OLY (@FrimpongAkwasi) March 3, 2019
In my own estimation, possibly the only thing more terrifying than going face-to-face with Aaron Donald is careening face-first down a twisted ribbon of ice. So pardon my language when I say that anybody who has spent their entire life being told “no” and their response was to become a record-setting sprinter, olympic bobsledder, professional football player, and eventually a football coach at the highest level, is clearly a badass. And if you have been watching these Seattle Seahawks for the last couple of seasons, I think we can all agree that this team needs as many badasses as it can get.
Except where otherwise noted, all quotes in this article were originally transcribed on the Seattle Seahawks team website, courtesy of John Boyle.