Amanda Ruller is on the practice field with the Seahawks because, first and foremost, she loves the game and she knows her stuff.
But Ruller, who is working with the Seahawks running backs as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship Program, is also here coaching on an NFL practice field so that girls and young women who love the game as much as she does might not hear some of the no's that she did growing up.
When Ruller, who is from Regina, Saskatchewan, would attend Saskatchewan Roughriders games as a kid, she would ask her dad if women could play football. His answer was the proper one for a father trying to empower a daughter to chase her dreams, but what Ruller came to realize is that society's biases don't always live up to a father's ideals.
"He said, you can do anything the boys could do," Ruller said. "And from there I went out and I said, 'Can I play football? Can I play flag football?' And I kept being told, 'No, you can't do this. No, you can't do that. You can't even volunteer to coach in football.'"
Ruller refused to accept those no's, however, first getting involved in the game as a player, then later as a coach. A track-and-field standout at the University of Regina—her career there overlapped with that of Seahawks Legend Jon Ryan—Ruller tried out for Team Canada and was cut for being all speed with no hands, but showed up the next day anyway, eventually earning a spot on the team.
Her passion for football then took Ruller from playing to coaching, most recently at McMaster University in Ontario, where she served as the running backs and special teams coach as well as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Ruller, who also served as the running backs and special teams coach for Team Ontario, a U18 women's tackle football team, then earned a role with her hometown Roughriders as part of the CFL's Women in Football Program, but quickly had to pass on that opportunity when she found out she was joining the Seahawks.
Ruller got connected with the Seahawks and the Bill Walsh Fellowship by traveling to Indianapolis earlier this year for the NFL Scouting Combine and getting her resume in as many hands as she could, and now that she is in Seattle, one of three Bill Walsh Diversity Fellows along with Akeem Dent and Jonathan Saxon, her goal is to grow as a coach and to be judged, "based on my ability, not who I am or my gender."
But while Ruller doesn't want to be evaluated based on her gender, she does understand and embrace the representation side of this fellowship, which makes her one of only a handful of female coaches in the NFL.
"For me, one of my missions is to help young girls and women feel more comfortable within football," Ruller said. "Because when I started, I wasn't comfortable. I didn't understand why I didn't belong. I didn't understand why people kept telling me, no, I can't be in this industry. I said, 'Just watch me. Watch me go forward. Watch me make this something for myself.' And I want anyone that starts in football, whether that be media, coaching, personnel, trainers, to feel like they belong here, that they're worthy. They can see an opportunity. I never saw that growing up. So I want to be that driving force for more women to think that I can do this. I can make a career out of this."
And though Ruller has faced plenty of obstacles trying to make it as a woman in a male-dominant sport, that has not been an issue since joining the Seahawks.
"Every single player and coach and everybody here welcomed me in," she said. "And I want to put that out there, because a lot of people ask me that question, and I want to answer it. I felt so welcomed and so put into this organization for a reason—to help these guys. A lot of these guys said they're not ready for women to be coming up in this industry, and maybe that's the media, but these men have been learning from women their entire lives, whether that be mothers, teachers, sisters, grandmothers. And I'm just going to be part of that journey for them now."
Like so many players and coaches whose careers have brought them to Seattle, Ruller has pointed to the culture Pete Carroll has created in Seattle as one of the best parts of the job.
"I love the culture," she said. "They let me be myself here. I've gained so much experience just even coaching, computer work, anything that's going to help me be better. They hold me accountable. I'm able to go forward, plan individual sessions for the athletes. I even got to spend some time within the strength and conditioning room. Anything that I had questions about, each coach helped me, both sides of the ball. So, I am learning so much and going forward, I'm going to be the best coach you've ever seen."
Ruller doesn't know what is next for her when this fellowship is up, but she'd obviously love to stick around with the Seahawks, and that's not an unrealistic scenario. Two members of Seattle's current coaching staff, assistant defensive line coach Aaron Curry and defensive quality control coach Will Tukuafu are both recent Bill Walsh Fellows, a path Ruller would love to follow.
"Maybe if I make a really good impression, kind of showcase my skills, insert myself where needed, I could make it happen for this team," she said. "And if not this team, that's OK, maybe another organization, but I feel like my compete level, everything I've done, whether it be bobsled, skeleton, Team Canada football, I was meant to compete and work at a high-performance industry and level. I feel like this is where I was born to work."
Yes, you read that right. In addition to competing in track, weightlifting and football, Ruller also was recruited, based on her track speed, by Team Canada to try her hand at the bobsled and skeleton—basically head-first luge for those who don't think hurtling down an ice track going 90 miles per hour feet first is enough of a thrill.
And whatever the pursuit, in this case coaching in the NFL, Ruller is taking the challenge on head first, looking to compete at the highest level.
"(Skeleton) actually takes a lot of guts, and that's the type of person who I am," Ruller said. "I came into this headfirst, going down this track and seeing what I can do and watch me go."
Check out some of the best photos of Seahawks players participating in organized team activities at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.