Favorite athlete: Russell Westbrook
Favorite team: Duke Blue Devils basketball
Favorite memory competing in sports: Making states sophomore year in basketball
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that happened while competing in sports: Fielding a kickoff after football practice in Green Jackets and dislocated my thumb. I walked over to my mom and said "I think something's wrong with my thumb".
Music on iPod: Alternative/Rap/Country - a mix of everything
Future plans: Attend college
Words to live by: "If you aren't going all the way, why go at all?" - Joe Namath
Goal before turning 30: Have a good job and know what I want to do in life
One thing people don't know about me: I used to hate pizza as a child
By GORDON GLANTZ
Ryan Cuthbert grew up on the gridiron.
Now a Pennridge senior, the Univest Featured Male Athlete was likely wearing shoulder pads in his crib.
His dad, Randy, was a standout at Central Bucks West in the glory years under legendary coach Mike Pettine. A fullback, he went on to star at Duke and then played in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers before embarking on a coaching career that went from his alma mater to Pennridge to Emmaus and now Wissahickon.
“I grew up on the sidelines,” said Cuthbert, adding that he served as a water boy and in other roles.
However, while outsiders presumed he would play football in high school after being a middle school quarterback, there was no pressure on the home front.
“It was all good, growing up,” said Cuthbert, admitting that his “first love” is basketball, not football, and adding that he also sampled soccer and baseball. “(My dad) never forced me to play. It eventually came back to me.”
And when it did, he initially decided against football as a freshman, instead choosing to focus on hoops.
But Pennridge football coach Jeff Hollenbach wasn’t about to let it go that easily.
“As I recall, it was a number of conversations and gentle reminders about how cool it might be to eventually play in front of a large excited crowd like this past Friday night against Souderton,” said Hollenbach. “I do remember then at some point, in the spring of his ninth-grade year, that we had a discussion and he indicated that he wanted to play.”
Recalled Cuthbert: “I was really unsure if I was going to come out. (Coach Hollenbach) convinced me to come out. He said I would be an asset to the team, and I knew I would get to touch the ball. I was a middle-school quarterback but I changed to wide receiver. I wanted to switch. I liked the whole one-on-one part of it. Plus, I missed it. I got bored. I enjoyed the team atmosphere and hanging out with my friends.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
“That was a good day for the program because Ryan brings not only incredible athletic ability, but strong character and leadership also,” continued Hollenbach. “Ryan has been a pleasure to coach for the past three years. He is the ultimate team player, competes well every day in practice, and that transfers to Friday night. He is on the field on both sides of the ball every play, and never wants a rest. He loves to compete.”
“I’ll just do whatever the game plan has for me,” he said. “Whatever is good for the team, I’m willing to do it.”
Turns out, the change in offense – from a Wing-T to a spread – has been an ideal match for Cuthbert’s need to touch to ball and make things happen for this team.
“I get more opportunities now,” he said. “It’s the way the offense is designed. I’m not blocking as much.”
The Rams are currently 2-2 and Cuthbert, who is one of the team’s four captains, feels like the team’s best football is still ahead.
“We just need to clean up some mistakes and then keep everything clean the rest of the year,” said the 6-1, 180-pounder who described himself as a “leader by example” who believes in setting the standard by “working hard and doing the right thing.”
And where it all will lead, anyone knows.
While there are no solid offers to play in college, he is not ruling out the possibility.
“I guess a lot just depends on how the rest of the season goes,” said Cuthbert, who opens up doors for himself with strong academics, as exhibited by a course load with honors and AP classes and will be looking for a school that will feature strong engineering and/or business departments. “If the opportunities present themselves, we’ll see what happens.
“I’ll be able to reflect on all that after the season. I’m focused on the season right now.”
And a big part of the focus is ridding the bitter taste of the way last season ended on Thanksgiving Day. That’s when the Rams built a 21-0 lead on rival Quakertown, only to lose, 28-21.
“It was a real bad note,” he said. “But it motivates me a lot. I kept my body in good shape (in the offseason). I don’t want it to end the same way as last year.”
However it does end, there will be the sudden gear shift to the hardwood for basketball.
A guard-forward, Cuthbert made mostly junior varsity as a sophomore before starting his whole junior season on a team that fell just short of making the state playoffs.
Although some key players were lost to graduation, Cuthbert likes the potential of some younger players coming up through the pipeline.
“We should still be good this year,” he said.
And still in good hands with Cuthbert on the floor, according to head coach Dean Behrens.
“Ryan is the ultimate team player,” said Behrens, adding that it has already been determined that Cuthbert will go from being a football captain to being one of the basketball captains. “He plays hard every play in practice and in games .
Describing Cuthbert as a “great leader by example,” Behrens added that he “never complains” and will “do whatever the coach wants him to do – cover a 6-6 player or cover a 5--10 player.”
And there is that extra something, that “it factor” that he brings.
“He is a winner,” said Behrens. “He has been a pleasure to coach for the past three years – I am really going to enjoy coaching him during his senior year.”
What both coaches were quick to add that Cuthbert is a quality person off the gridiron or hardwood.
“He’s a great student who is polite, respectful to his teachers and peers,” Behrens.
Hollenbach can remember a specific instance that stands out in his mind, and it came well after the Friday night lights had dimmed.
Last June we helped the special needs class plant some pumpkin seedlings on campus,” said Hollenbach. “I was impressed with the way he treated his peers. He demonstrated kindness, respect, positive encouragement, and leadership not only in this situation, but in his approach to all of those around him.
“He represents the character and attitude we are looking for from Pennridge football players.”