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Sean Lynch: Right choices land Rushing an NFL job

Sean Lynch
Sean Lynch Sean Lynch

Mark Speckman described John Rushing as a typical knucklehead when he began coaching him at Merced High.

"He was a good athlete, just not sure what he wanted to do," said Speckman, now the head football coach at Willamette University in Oregon.

"He probably didn't take school as seriously as he should have.

"He always had a good work ethic, though. He was always willing to go hard in the weight room.

"John's is a story about making the right choices. Because he did that, some tremendous things have come his way."

Two decades later, Rushing's good decisions have helped lead to a dream opportunity.

According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has offered Rushing an offensive quality control coaching position.

Speckman said the road to the Packers began in Rushing's junior year at Merced.

It became obvious the Merced running back and cornerback had the talent to play in college.

Rushing helped Merced win back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section titles in 1989 and '90.

And the offers started rolling in.

Rushing turned his schooling around, making sure he was eligible to cash in on the opportunities.

Cash in he did.

Rushing accepted an offer to Washington State and started at defensive back from 1991 to 1994.

After that, he partnered back up with Speckman -- accepting a coaching position at Willamette.

It was the start of something big for Rushing.

"He came and coached with me for two years," Speckman said. "He's a very smart football mind and great recruiter, because of his people skills.

"He was always a very nurturing coach and I think his players had a lot of respect for him."

From there, Rushing headed to Boise State. He worked as a graduate assistant under current Colorado coach Dan Hawkins.

Rushing spent three years at Montana State, before finally settling in as a defensive backs coach and punt return coach at Utah State, where he worked with former Golden Valley star Chris Randle.

Rushing gave the Aggies six years and remained through three head coaches, but the Packers made an offer he couldn't refuse.

Rushing couldn't speculate on the offer, but did work with the Packers last summer through the NFL's Minority Internship Program.

The program gives minorities coaching positions with an organization during training camp.

Apparently Rushing left an impression.

"It's a great story," Speckman said. "It's a great opportunity for John and it's nice because he did it the right way.

"He put in the time. He paid his dues. And now he gets to realize one of his dreams of coaching in the NFL.

"If I'm a 15-year-old kid at Merced High right now, this opens my eyes.

"I'd be thinking, I can do it too."

A quality control coach means a variety of things to different teams.

Essentially, it's an entry-level coaching position. Rushing's responsibilities could range from breaking down game tape to doing advanced scouting.

Whatever it is the Packers have him do, Speckman expects to see him rise through the coaching ranks quickly.

"I think whether it's in professional football or college, wherever he wants to go, he's going to have a real good opportunity to move up," Speckman said. "This Packers thing should give him excellent balance, since he's on the offensive side.

"He's been a defensive coach his entire career, so it should really help his football knowledge.

"Ultimately, I definitely see John being a coordinator someday and maybe even a head coach if he wants it."

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at slynch@mercedsun-star.com.

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