SAN ANTONIO — Former Judson head football coach D.W. Rutledge attended a granddaughter’s ballet recital with his wife Kathy the other day.
There was a time when Rutledge couldn’t have sat still long enough to enjoy such an occasion, but his life has slowed down since he stepped down as executive director of the Texas High School Coaches Association at the end of 2018.
In what seems like a lifetime ago in some ways, Rutledge reveled in teaching his players the intricacies of the weak-eagle defense that was synonymous with Judson during his stellar 21 seasons with the Rockets.
Rutledge will be back in his element at Judson’s spring football game late Wednesday afternoon, but he won’t be on the sideline at the stadium that bears his name. He’ll be signing copies of the book “Rocket Man: The Story of D.W. Rutledge and the Judson High School Football Dynasty,” co-authored by Dr. Charles Breithaupt and Chris Doelle.
Rutledge chuckled when he recalled the first time Breithaupt approached him with the idea of writing a book about his career at Judson, where Rutledge was the head coach for 17 seasons before resigning early in 2001 to take an executive position with the THSCA.
“Charlie called me and wanted to know if that was OK with me,” Rutledge said. “I said, ‘Why would you want to write a book about me?’ But he and Chris did a great job with it. They were real kind.”
Breithaupt, executive director of the University Interscholastic League, which governs extracurricular activities in Texas public schools, and Doelle also will be on hand to promote the book at the Judson spring game. Legendary coach Grant Teaff wrote the foreword for “Rocket Man,” which was published in February and is available on Amazon.
The Judson spring game starts at 5:30.
Rutledge, who turned 68 on Saturday, knows something about the publishing business himself. He and former Judson offensive coordinator Dennis Parker co-authored a book, titled “Coaching to Change Lives,” in 2006.
The Rockets soared to great heights under Rutledge, who was promoted to head coach in 1984 after serving as Frank Arnold’s defensive coordinator for four seasons. Arnold resigned as head coach and became athletic director of the Judson ISD in 1984, after leading the Rockets to their first state title in 1983.
Judson went 198-31-5, won four state titles (one by forfeit) and made the playoffs in 16 of their 17 seasons under Rutledge. Judson Stadium was renamed after Rutledge in 2006.
Rutledge, who lives in New Braunfels, recalled how things came together at Judson in the early 1980s. The Rockets won six state championships in a 20-year span that ended in 2002, when Jim Rackley led Judson to its last title. The Rockets went 236-36-5 during those two decades.
“We were blessed big time,” Rutledge said. “We had the right staff. We had some great coaches who were also great men and an administration that supported what we were trying to do, as far as our philosophy with the kids and building character and those things.
“When I look back and people ask me what was the most important thing our coaching staff did that made our program strong, there’s no doubt in my mind that it was character development. We made it a point to take them (players) into the classroom and make sure we went through all those things that we did before we started boot camp. We had great kids and some great players who bought into it.”
Rutledge hasn’t exactly lived a life of leisure since retiring. He is still a consultant for the THSCA and works part-time for TexasCoach.Network, a recruitment service that connects Texas school districts and coaches seeking employment.
“I can pick and choose the days I want to work, so it’s not a lot,” Rutledge said.
The honors continue to come in for Rutledge, who will accept a leadership award in Kalamazoo, Mich., next month. He also will be inducted into the National Federation of State High School Associations Hall of Fame in Indianapolis in late June. The 37th Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held in conjunction with the 100th annual NFHS summer convention.
Rutledge and his wife, Kathy, have a son, Clint, and three grandchildren. A former Judson quarterback, Clint played for his father and was a member of the Rockets’ 1992 and 1993 state-championship teams.