RENTON — As part of her duties working as an assistant running-back coach for the Seahawks the last few weeks, Amanda Ruller at times got to be on the field, essentially serving as a scout-team player to help with drills.
“It was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I get to play football against the Seahawks,’ ” Ruller said Thursday. “Not a lot of people can say that.”
But if Ruller said she made sure to take in those moments, what she didn’t do is question if she belonged.
Ruller, 34, was one of three coaches added to Seattle’s staff during OTAs (organized team activities) and mandatory minicamp over the last month as part of the NFL’s Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship program. The other two are former NFL players Akeem Dent and Jonathan Saxon, currently the defensive coordinator at South Carolina State.
Ruller is the first woman to work for the Seahawks as part of the program. But she hopes she’s not the last.
“I want to be that driving force for more women to think, ‘I can do this. I can make a career out of this,’ ” Ruller said.
Ruller, a native of Regina, Saskatchewan, developed an interest in football attending Saskatchewan Roughriders games with her family. Ruller said she remembered once asking her father why she didn’t see any women involved and her father responding that she shouldn’t let that deter her from pursuing a role in the game.
“He said, ‘You can do anything the boys can do,'” Ruller said.
So while Ruller also played soccer and developed into a track star as a sprinter, a competitive Olympic weight lifter and even earned a role with the Canadian national team in bobsled and skeleton, football always remained at the top of her mind.
She eventually tried out for Team Canada as it prepared for the 2017 Women’s World Championships. She said she was initially cut, with coaches telling her she was fast enough but didn’t have good enough hands to play running back. But Ruller decided not to go down without a fight and kept showing up to practices, anyway.
“Eventually they had to put me in,” she said. “They had to let me practice.” And she eventually earned a role on a team that earned a silver medal.
She also played running back in the United States in the Legends Football League for five seasons as she continued to pursue any football job she could. She worked for a while as the in-game host for the Roughriders and other roles in media before landing a job at the University of Regina, her and former Seahawks punter Jon Ryan’s alma mater, as the speed coach in 2018.
But her goals were loftier.
“This is my dream,” she said Thursday, “to be working within the NFL.”
She sent what she called “tons” of résumés to NFL teams through the years but didn’t get much response, saying, “I think when you just submit a résumé, they don’t get to see the type of person you are. ”
So this year she decided to pay her own way to attend the NFL combine in Indianapolis and make as many connections as she could.
One included meeting with a representative of the Seahawks, who asked if she’d applied for the Walsh program, which was established in 1987 and is aimed at allowing minority coaches to get exposure in the NFL. It was named after Walsh after he began a similar program while head coach with the 49ers. Roughly 2,000 coaches have participated in the program.
Ruller had, which helped lead to her official hiring by Seattle shortly after.
The 34-year-old has not only been helping with running backs during on-field drills but also helped plan some individual lessons for players and work some in the weight room — she holds Saskatchewan records in the snatch and the clean and jerk.
To come to the Seahawks Ruller had to give up a spot with the Roughriders as part of the CFL’s Women in Football training-camp internship for the preseason, but she says it’ll be worth it.
“I want to develop my skills as a football coach,” she said. “I want to be honest, I need more experience, and I want you to judge me based on my ability and not who I am or my gender. So I want to go forward building those skills and hopefully get an opportunity to coach within an NFL organization.”
While the Seahawks’ offseason program ends with its final OTA on Wednesday, Ruller’s job won’t as she will come back for training camp as well as working at a couple of preseason games.
“I’m so excited to see what a game-day experience looks like and get that developmental side for myself as a coach,” Ruller said.
After that she’s not sure what will happen, though she’s hoping it may lead to staying with the Seahawks or latching on with another team.
She’s going to spend the roughly six-week break the NFL now has before camp begins in late July working with an under-18 women’s tackle football team in Canada for Team Ontario.
But her time with Seahawks, she said, is something “I’m going to treasure that forever, no matter what happens.”
Rull said coach Pete Carroll told her when she arrived to just be herself — a philosophy Carroll has often cited as a key to his own career.
Ruller said Carroll as well as every other coach and player on the team has welcomed her presence with enthusiasm.
“Learning from Pete Carroll has been amazing,” she said. “He’s a great mentor for me and that’s exactly what I need to go forward to be the best coach that I can be. He made me feel welcome. As soon as I walked into the building he said, ‘How can I make you great going forward?’ I’ve never been asked that before. So I think that attention to detail and trust to help me to help him be a better coach is something I’ve never come across, and I thank him so much for doing that.”