Gateway won one game over the previous two years and last season had to forfeit a game because it didn't have enough healthy bodies.
One of those missing was Rutter, who took last season off to concentrate on baseball, which happens to be his No. 1 passion.
"It killed me not playing football," Rutter said. "I felt bad for my team."
When new coach Steve Duncan took over, he spoke to Rutter about working out a schedule in which he could participate in summer football workouts in the morning and play baseball in the evening.
Rutter had been a two-way football starter as a sophomore, and his return to the team has been among the reasons for this season's renaissance.
Gateway is 2-2 after Saturday's 24-21 comeback win over Audubon. Rutter rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries and scored on a 38-yard run in the game. He also scored on a 57-yard pass reception from Tim Greene and kicked a 35-yard field goal that had plenty to spare. Rutter also was a force from his safety position, patrolling the secondary and coming up strong to make several tackles on running plays.
What's refreshing about Rutter is that he doesn't take himself too seriously. He has long been told that he's too small to play sports, especially one as physical as football.
"Everybody tells me that all the time, and I just laugh at it," he said. "They are probably right, but I don't get mad. I just go out there and try to have fun."
Right now, he's having the time of his life.
"Nothing compares to winning a football game," Rutter said. "It's the greatest feeling."
Much greater than how he feels the day after a game.
"I am always sore the day after," he said. "A lot of times, I will lie down and watch football."
Yet after the day's rest, he's ready to begin the grind again.
"He's just a tough kid and, like all of our seniors, is getting the job done," Duncan said.
Rutter is the type of player who has drawn oversize reviews from those who have seen him compete up close.
"He plays big for his size," said senior receiver-defensive back J.R. Little, who at 5-8 and 165 pounds doesn't exactly tower over his teammate. "He's just a tremendous fighter and a great teammate."
Rutter has been a varsity baseball starter since his freshman year and hopes to play college baseball. He's a shortstop who understands that second base might be his position in the future. A number of Division II schools have been in contact with Rutter, who is also a member of the National Honor Society.
"Even in baseball with my size, it makes it that much harder," he said. "Everybody wants big players."
Of course, some coaches look past the tape measure and want players who simply play big. That would be Rutter, who is inching his way toward one of the more impressive football seasons this year in South Jersey.
Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or @sjnard on Twitter.
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