Now, Rod Rutherford must tutor defensive backs on how to keep opposing quarterbacks from doing the same things to them, as he recently was hired to coach the secondary at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.
Panther Digest caught up with Rutherford on campus this week.
"I'll be coaching the secondary, the DBs and the safeties, so it's a great opportunity for me,'' Rutherford said. "I played free safety in high school, and probably more schools recruited me as a DB. But the University of Pittsburgh wanted me as a quarterback.
"So, I understand defenses, and that helps. It's not totally a different thing for me. Coaching defense is going to be where the learning curve comes in. I've done some coaching before, at least, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to coach here at Saint Vincent.''
Rutherford has been on campus for about two weeks now and has spent most of that time in meetings with SVC head coach Bob Colbert and defensive coordinator Shawn Rohrer to help him acclimate to their system.
"I have a lot of hard work to do before the season,'' Rutherford said. "(But) football has gotten me out of a lot of situations, from a kid growing up to now, and it's provided a lot of opportunities. And I've seen a lot of things.
"I've traveled to Europe. So, I felt like I would always be in football. I think I could have played longer, but coaching is the next best thing to that. And I'm really enjoying it. So, I can always see myself being involved with football.''
Rutherford was a four-year letter-winner and two-year starter at Pitt where he was named an All-Big East player as a junior and senior (2002-2003). As a senior, he set the school record for passing yards in a season with 3,678 and led the Big East in total offense with 260 yards per game. Rutherford was 458-for-840 for 6,725 yards and 60 touchdowns in his career.
After graduating from Pitt, Rutherford was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2004 by the Carolina Panthers and spent the season on the team's practice squad. He was then picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2005-06 Super Bowl season and was on their practice squad to earn a championship ring.
In 2007, Rutherford played for the Hamburg SeaDevils of NFL Europe and helped the team reach the World Bowl Championship. After the league disbanded, Rutherford signed with the Erie River Rats of the American Indoor Football Association for the 2008 campaign and led them to a 10-6 record.
Rutherford graduated from Pitt in 2004 and returned there for the 2007 football season as a volunteer coach. He also served in that capacity at the high school level at his alma mater and at Harding High School in North Carolina when he played for the Panthers.
"I'd really like to thank Coach Wannstedt for giving me an opportunity to help out,'' Rutherford said. "He didn't have to do that. I had an opportunity to be seen, let people know that I was still around and still interested in the game, so that was a great thing that Pitt did. It really got me on my way in coaching.
"Arena football was a lot of fun. ... It reminded me of high school football. We weren't looking to do anything but play the game. There wasn't pressure like in college or pro football, so that's how it was like high school. And we enjoyed ourselves. I don't think I'd do it again, but we'll see. I'm a coach now.''
The 2008 season will be the second for the Saint Vincent football team since it disbanded in 1962. The Bearcats are scheduled to report to summer camp Aug. 14, and their first game is against McDaniel College Sept. 6 at home.