Senior football player, ambassador has earned the nickname ‘Mr. Stevenson’

Zak Rutsch to graduate this week, leaving a lasting impression and legacy all over the SU community
Senior Zak Rutsch kicking off the game during the 2023 football season.
Senior Zak Rutsch kicking off the game during the 2023 football season.
Sabina Moran

There comes a time every year at Stevenson University where seniors begin to say their goodbyes and are recognized for their achievements. Many leave lasting impressions on their peers and some have even made a permanent impact on the SU community.

Dell Family scholarship recipients Zak Rutsch and JT Tyson with Mr. Samuel M. Dell III at the annual Dell Family Lecture. (Zak Rutsch)

Senior Zak Rutsch, known to some as Mr. Stevenson, has done just that.

Rutsch began his time at Stevenson University in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While classes for his major in business administration were online at the time, he found himself on campus.

“As a Stevenson student, they did provide a lot of different opportunities to connect and network with people through classes,” Rutsch said. “They provided us to have to opportunity to stay on campus, which not a lot of other schools did.”

As it did for every student at Stevenson, COVID-19 affected Rutsch.

“It was a lot more difficult than a lot of people perceived,” he said. “It took a full year away from my college experience.”

Since then, Rutsch has found ways to be involved on campus in more ways than one throughout the remainder of his four years.

“I didn’t get involved in high school. I know I could have done a lot to help better my high school, but I felt like there were other people who were smarter than me or I just didn’t want to take the initiative,” Rutsch said. “At Stevenson I just really enjoyed that opportunity to be the change or just help change things at Stevenson.”

Zak Rutsch on the field working as a intramural referee. (Zak Rutsch)

You could find Rutsch involved on campus as a leadership scholar, a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, the NCAA honor society Chi Alpha Sigma, and the honor society Sigma Beta Delta, which is for business students, as well as an intramural referee for club sports, and working as a senior ambassador in admissions.

One defining aspect on Rutsch’s career at Stevenson University included his time as a kicker on the football team. Rutsch played football for a short period in high school, but it never was his focus.

“I was very nervous about how my role would be perceived or how much play time I would actually get, but luckily over my four-year career, technically three because of Covid, I’ve played every single game,” Rutsch said.

The work and time Rutsch put in as the kickoff specialist over the past three years has not gone unnoticed. He was a two-time second team all-Middle Atlantic Conference player and twice made the all-MAC academic team.

“Zak impacted the football team by doing his job at a high level,” assistant football coach Ken Emmons said. “He always showed up with the mindset to get better every day.”

Rutsch loved the football team’s family dynamic.

“I call them my family,” he said. “I would do anything for them, and they would do anything for me. They are my brothers.”

There were many moments that made Rutsch stand out as a team member. Emmons remembered one of them. It was Senior Day against Eastern, and the Mustangs had just tied the game at 16 about midway through the fourth quarter. However, after the touchdown, Stevenson was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. That meant instead of kicking off at the 35, Rutsch had to kick from his own 20.

“The returners moved up 15 yards because of the penalty, and Zak still kicked it over their heads for a touchback,” Emmons said. “It was a huge momentum switch in the game.”

Stevenson went on to win the game in overtime, 26-23, on a field goal by another senior, Brody Campbell.

Zak Rutsch representing Stevenson University in his role of SGA Speaker of the House. (Zak Rutsch)

Rutsch has also shown his leadership in other areas across campus, including the Student Government Association.

“Zak serves as the Speaker of the House and works with the House of Representatives to build connections with Deans and other campus partners,” Director of Student Life and Leadership Jenna Womack said. “Zak has also represented the student body at Independent Higher Education Day in Annapolis and at the Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees.”

“Zak is a community-builder. Zak builds bridges between members of the campus community and does everything in his power to enhance the University experience for students,” Womack said.

Rutsch described how he was able to bridge connections between deans, school representatives and their students.

“I just want to make sure people have the best college experience they possibly can,” Rutsch said. “I want to leave a lasting legacy of allowing other people to get to know other people in their classes or within their schools.”

“I’m actually very proud of what I have been able to accomplish in a short amount of time.”

SGA representative and freshman Savannah Lacey called Rutsch “very patient.”

“When first starting with SGA this past fall my co-representative (and I) had little to no idea what our jobs would entail,” Lacey said. “He was patient with all of us as we got the hang of our leadership positions.”

Zak Rutsch and fellow ambassadors at the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association student leadership institute. (Zak Rutsch)

Across campus, others who have worked with Rusch shared the same sentiment . He made individuals feel welcomed and pushed them to do better.

Junior Stephanie Henry said Rutsch helped her feel welcome within the student ambassador program.

“He welcomes everyone with a smile and is always the most encouraging for the success of others,” Henry said. “His support helps the program be what it is, and I would not have the same experience in the program if it weren’t for Zak.”

Rutsch called giving tours to prospective students and their families “an honor.” In addition, he has improved his public speaking skills and has begun to develop a network of Stevenson students and families.

“Seeing the faces of people when they enter our university for the very first time is not something that everyone on campus gets to see,” Rutsch said. “You see their face light up and you see them know they want to come to Stevenson University.”

As he walks across the stage this upcoming Monday, Rutsch will be leaving a lasting impression on fellow incoming students long beyond his graduation date.

“Zak has pushed many to want to partake in more and more leadership opportunities as college students,” Lacey said. “He showed me and my peers it is possible to be involved within our program of study, as well as being a student, and even an athlete.”

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About the Contributor
Shannon O'Hara
Shannon O'Hara, Reporter
Shannon O'Hara is a senior business communication major with a minor in music. She is from Milford, Delaware, and is involved in multiple organizations across campus including Phi Sigma Sigma and the Communication Hub. You can often times find her capturing and managing content as a Senior Ambassador for the Stevenson University Ambassador Program. Shannon hopes to pursue marketing and sponsorship in the entertainment industry post-graduation.
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