During practice on Wednesday, Sept. 7, Charlotte football running back Henry Rutledge received life-changing news that benefits him on and off the field.
It was announced that Rutledge was on scholarship for the 49ers. Not only that, but Rutledge heard about the news from NFL and Carolina Panthers great Luke Kuechly.
Rutledge, a native of Charlotte, said Kuechly was a player he looked up to growing up.
"Growing up watching him, I always idolized him. I always wanted to meet him," said Rutledge. "For him to know who I was and end up giving me the scholarship was amazing."
Head Coach Will Healy reflected on the experience and said Rutledge earned the scholarship.
"Those are some of the most incredible moments you can have as a head coach," said Healy. "It is one of the most rewarding things you could do for somebody. Henry has earned every bite of it.
Weight lifted off his shoulders
For college students, receiving scholarships allows them to focus more on their goals instead of financial burdens.
Rutledge said the scholarship would help him reach his academic and athletic goals.
"Academically, I don't have to pay for books. It's not something I have to worry about, so it's a weight lifted off my shoulders, and it's a little more money in my pocket," said Rutledge.
A family matter
Rutledge described how the scholarship benefits him and his family, who have supported him on his football journey.
"My family is really supportive, and now my parents don't have to think about paying for college," said Rutledge.
Rutledge is not only grateful for the opportunity the 49ers gave him but the ability it gives his family to come out and support him.
"Charlotte was one of the lone schools that recruited me, and I was blessed with the opportunity to come here," said Rutledge.
"It definitely helps being close to my family. They get to come to every home game and even travel to most away games."
Hard work pays off
Becoming a scholarship player on the team requires hard work and dedication.
"The most important thing is it shows the team that I have been working hard and that I earned it, you have to take advantage of your opportunities, and I was able to capitalize," said Rutledge.
Fellow running back Chavon McEachern praised Rutledge, saying he was a positive light on the team.
"Henry [Rutledge] has a desire to be great. Every day he asks questions on how to be better," said McEachern.
"He is a good kid on and off the field. He pushes me to do more and has positive energy anytime he steps into a room."
As a younger guy on the team, Rutledge expressed his goals for the rest of the season.
"I've got to take advantage of the opportunities I get, not make moments too big when I get them, and just do my job," said Rutledge.
Rutledge and the 49ers are back in action on Saturday, Sept. 17, as they travel to Atlanta to take on the Georgia State Panthers. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.