He’s one of the most complete people I know. Through all the ups and downs, even in his worst times, he kept everybody up. He always stays positive. —Former high school teammate Chris Olave
SALT LAKE CITY — Before the Mission Hills football team crosses the threshold of the high school’s weight room, the players link arms and sing.
They belt out the San Marcos, California, high school’s fight song as a reminder that they represent more than themselves as members of the Grizzlies football team. It wasn’t, however, a tradition that was born when the school opened in 2004, or that began with an edict from coaches.
It was a ritual that began with Utah’s newest quarterback — Jack Tuttle.
“In the offseason (between his junior and senior year),” he researched, and maybe even composed lyrics, to the fight song, and then he typed them all out, gave them to everybody in the football class, and had them learn them,” said Chris Hauser, who has been the head football coach at Mission Hills since it opened. “Before every lift, they’d gather in a circle and sing. He’s gone now, but that’s part of his legacy. That’s how we go in the weight room every day.”
Jack Tuttle gained national attention as a senior at Mission Hills High School. | Courtesy Tuttle family
Tuttle's coaches and former teammates said there are countless ways, large and small, that he tries to reach out, lift up and bring together not just the guys with whom he plays, but those who support and cheer for them.
“He’s always wanting to bridge any divide, bring the team together,” Hauser said. “He was instrumental in coordinating offseason activities.”
He did everything from organizing hikes to designing bracelets emblazoned with the team motto his senior season, “In it together Win as one.”
His natural leadership ability may explain why his Utah teammates nominated him to the Leadership Council after just two months on campus.
When asked to describe the teammate who threw him 93 passes during his senior campaign, Ohio State-bound Chris Olave struggles with adjectives that adequately capture Tuttle — as a person or a teammate.
“That’s unexplainable,” Olave said. “He’s one of the most complete people I know. Through all the ups and downs, even in his worst times, he kept everybody up. He always stays positive.” In fact, if Olave had to characterize Tuttle, his disposition would be how he did it.
“Everything about him is positive,” Olave said. “Even off the field. Everybody just looks forward to talking to him. It’s crazy what type of person he is on and off the field.”
Jay and Kathy Tuttle have had a view of their son’s rise that many parents never experience. When Jack first asked about signing up for football as a third-grader, Kathy, a physical education teacher, rec coach and athletic director at San Elijo Middle School, would only give permission if Jay agreed to coach him.
“Jack took to it right away,” said Jay. “He was always interested in throwing the ball, but initially they had him as a tackle.”
Tuttle, now 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, was always one of the tallest kids on the team. His Pop Warner team filmed every game, and when his dad began watching film with other coaches, Jack began joining him.
“Jack got interested in watching film with me when he was maybe 10 or 11,” Jay said. “He got better and better at it.”
Jack played a long list of sports — and even ventured into the domain of his older sister, Ally, when his mother signed him up for a hip-hop class.
“He had the time of his life,” Kathy said. “It was an all-boys hip-hop group, and we thought it would be good for him, for his coordination and in getting up and performing in front of people. It was quite funny, and we teased them all.
“I was lucky enough to have him on my campus where I teach, and he's just everybody’s friend,” she continued. “He wasn’t just the jocks’ friend or the popular kids’ friend. He loved every kid that was in his class. If he knew somebody was having a rough day, he was the kid who would go over, talk to them, see how they were doing. A few times, kids would be getting bullied, and he’d stand up for them. He just likes people.”
One person, in particular, holds a special place in Jack’s heart, and that’s his older sister, who is three-and-a-half years older and a senior at the University of Tennessee.
“They’re really great together, and they always have been,” said Jay. “One of the things Kathy and I talked to them about is this idea that they get to walk through life together. And they really do a great job of supporting one another.”
Ally, who is a member of the Tennessee’s two-time national championship dance team, said her brother has always been her best friend — no matter what she asked of him.
Jack and his older sister, Ally, pose at a beach in Carlsbad, California, in 2010. The two have always been extremely close. | Courtesy Tuttle family
“Whether it was when we were little, and I’d build roads for his cars with blocks, or if we were hanging out by the pool, he never got tired of me,” she said. “Even with all the crazy ideas I had, doing his hair, dressing him up, playing school.”
She laughs as she describes his easy-going nature.
“As we got older, we just both, obviously we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, having expectations to succeed,” she said. “Whenever I had a tough day or got down on myself, he’d always be the first to spot it. He always reminds me that he loves me. He’s always been so settled.”
When Jack began to show just how special he was on the football field, the attention on him was massive and unrelenting. Hauser said Jack's accommodating nature made it difficult for him to turn down interviews or say no when fans might want to talk to him about why he should attend the school they loved.
Tuttle committed to Utah just after his junior year ended, and that was a decision many thought might change as dozens of big-name schools joined the fray in his final year of high school. During his senior season, Tuttle threw for 3,171 yards, and 41 touchdowns. He threw just four interceptions and was a unanimous choice for Player of the Year.
San Diego Union-Tribune reporter John Maffei covered Tuttle throughout his high school career and said the hype surrounding the quarterback was earned.
Jack Tuttle was initially pegged as an offensive lineman because of his height. But he always wanted to throw the ball. He's pictured here as the quarterback of his Pop Warner team at age 9. | Courtesy Tuttle family
"There's a kid I could see playing on Sundays," Maffei said.
His parents said that he navigated the recruiting process with astounding maturity, as he sought a place where he could get a great education and feel comfortable while growing as an athlete.
“To be honest, we really did encourage, even though he’d committed so early, we encouraged him to really do some soul-searching about where he wanted to go to school,” Kathy said. “I think he did that, and I think he truly found his home.”
Jack's parents and his former coach are not surprised he never wavered on his commitment to the Utes, even as he took other campus visits and talked with other coaches.
“Jack is a kid that places a high value on trusting relationships,” Jay said. “He is very straight forward and honest.” Ally Tuttle said that comes from the way they were raised and his faith.
Ally said her brother has dealt with situations that are tough for most adults to understand.
“I’m just always in awe of how he handles himself,” she said. “I can’t imagine the immense pressure he’s under every day, and he always handles it with grace.”
One of the ways he handled all that attention was to shine a light on his teammates.
“He was always very conscious about bringing his teammates into interviews,” Kathy said. “Every interview, he always wanted his teammates around him, he’d introduce them, acknowledge them in some capacity, from the beginning to the end of his high school career.”
His coach said he witnessed that humility and selflessness.
“He (exemplifies) that ideal about team always coming first,” Hauser said. “He did a great job of deflecting the attention to his teammates. And he was always so gracious with everybody. He doesn’t pass up the chance to say hello or have a handshake.”
Tuttle displayed some of that when a reporter asked him about Britain Covey leading Timpview to a win over Mission Hills when he was a freshman. He grins as he heaped praise on the soon-to-be sophomore wide receiver, whom he welcomed home from an LDS Church mission this week with several Utah coaches. In vivid detail, he recounted how Covey scored six touchdowns against four Div. I defenders.
Tuttle endured his first interviews Saturday, where he said he just hoped to do well in school and be a good teammate.
“Jack’s a baller,” said junior cornerback Julian Blackmon. “He’s a really good quarterback. If he keeps learning and does what he does, I expect a great career out of him.”