You might as well call it addition by subtraction, as Amanda Ruller is adding to her already impressive football resume by leaving the land of the 13th Man for the home of the 12th.
The native of Regina, Saskatchewan was one of nine individuals selected for the CFL’s Women in Football training camp internship program this year, joining her hometown Roughriders for preseason preparations. That was until she received a phone call from another pro football club 1,600 kilometres to the west: the Seattle Seahawks.
Now, Ruller is one of three coaching interns hired by Seattle as part of the NFL’s Bill Walsh Diversity Fellowship Program. She arrived in Washington state for offseason OTAs on May 24, direct from Riders camp and with the full support of the staff in Saskatchewan.
“When I got the call-up, I let them know that I had this opportunity and they were like, ‘Wow, that’s once a lifetime. You never know where that might take you,'” Ruller said over the phone Sunday.
“I honestly went from Riders camp to here, I didn’t even skip a beat. I didn’t pack anything, I just packed my Riders gear and came here to the Seahawks camp, changed into Seahawks gear and got started.”
While she kept her departure from training camp in Saskatoon and subsequent hiring in Seattle relatively quiet in order to focus on the task at hand, this opportunity has long been a dream for Ruller. For years, the former Women’s National Team running back had tried unsuccessfully to knock on the door of pro football’s old boys’ club. This year, she wasn’t going to be turned down.
“I’d applied for tons of stuff in the past and it was really tough to break in when you’re just putting a resume out there,” Ruller said. “This year, I actually physically brought it upon myself to go to the NFL Combine and I worked my magic and met tons of people there, made a lot of connections and got my resume in tons of people’s hands.”
The Seahawks took interest and that led to a series of interviews for their internship position. She impressed and will now be with the team through offseason workouts and training camp, with the life-changing opportunity to coach NFL preseason games this August. Ruller is already serving as the team’s assistant running backs coach, added responsibility that Seattle wasn’t required to assign to her.
“A lot of people just come in and they don’t really get a title,” she said. “I thought it was awesome they went above and beyond to make me feel welcome and ensure that I have a voice and I’m able to coach these guys up.”
Ruller, who spent last season coaching running backs, special teams, and handling strength and conditioning at McMaster University, credits her brief stint with the Riders for helping to prepare her for the NFL plunge. Head coach Craig Dickenson, who she believes is the best in the CFL, and running backs coach Kelly Jeffrey honed her skills and now she is showing them off by coaching a backfield that includes the likes of Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and this year’s second-round pick Kenneth Walker III.
While the resources differ on either side of the border, Ruller believes the pace of play and winning mentality is identical between the CFL and NFL. There was no culture shock going from the Riders to the Seahawks, as Super Bowl-winning head coach Pete Carroll has made Ruller feel like a part of the team from day one, when he had her face down veteran running back Travis Homer in a basketball shootout.
For Ruller, the experience has simply affirmed that she is exactly where she is meant to be.
“I had the vision. I always knew I’d be at this level, there’s no question about it,” she said with conviction. “I knew it. Everyone told me no. People, players, even people I coached said you shouldn’t focus on this and every single time I just said, ‘Well, watch me.’ Now I honestly can say that I’ve made it to a level where not a lot of people have.”
A long way from her days as a 3DownNation contributor, Ruller believes there are plenty more big things in store for her in the coaching realm. Bill Walsh internships have turned into full-time positions for participants in the past — Henry Burris made that leap with Chicago just a few years ago — and the experience south of the border will make it difficult for CFL teams to overlook her in the future. She even sees a path forward in the university ranks, where Ruller dreams of becoming a U Sports head coach.
Whatever comes next, Ruller will continue to be an inspiration to young women and aspiring coaches of all genders across Canada.