Popular Fruitport football coach Rueger dies

Even with his health failing, Larry Rueger wanted his last days filled with what he loved the most - inspiring young men in the game of football. Battlling kidney disease, Rueger was still a presence at Fruitport's football training this summer, lending his expertise at motivating in the weight room or helping out in any way he could on the field. The longtime coach passed away Sunday morning at the age of 70.
Nate Thompson
Aug 1, 2011

Rueger was one of the most well-known and respected coaches in West Michigan, totaling more than 45 years of coaching service. He developed several close relationships through football from his 25 years as the chairman of the summer Michigan High School Football Coaches Assocation East-West All-Star Game.

Rueger also taught for 30 years, most as a popular choir teacher at Mona Shores High School.

Rueger was a defensive coordinator under head coach Steve Wilson for the past 22 seasons at Fruitport and helped lead the Trojans to 17 winning seasons and 15 playoff apperances during that time span.  

Wilson consistently raved about Rueger’s unique skill set as a coach. No one was more passionate or had more knowledge of the game, which easily earned the players’ respect. At the same time, Rueger was fun-loving under his gruff exterior, serving as a grandfather figure to the Trojans’ teams.

“It would be too simple to say he loved kids, but that was his life — he was dedicated to kids,” Fruitport Athletic Director Ken Erny said this morning. “From football or even with choir, he had that great balance of being someone who was extremely demanding, but at the same time leaving a message that he clearly cared about the kids. That’s a great balance and it’s a tribute to Larry.”

Wilson held a brief but emotional meeting with his team this morning, informing them of Rueger’s passing.

“He knew he didn’t have much time left, and his voice was getting lower and lower,” Erny said. “But even so, he wanted to spend his time with the kids and around football. That was his choice. It was just another way of saying ‘I care about you and you can get better.’”

No funeral arranments have been made at this time. Rueger leaves behind a wife, Connie and daughter Kim. He was preceeded in death by his daughter, Tara, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1998.

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