After a dismal 1-9 season, the Azusa Pacific football team looks forward to beginning a new chapter under first-year Head Coach Rudy Carlton.
He never even bothered to update his resume.
That’s very bold for a young offensive coordinator who’s had as much success as Rudy Carlton. Those who know him best know he didn’t disregard his resume for nine years out of ignorance; everything he does is with a purpose. He’s been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.
Some might go as far as to say Carlton’s been groomed for the head coaching job at Azusa Pacific. He is now the longest-tenured affiliate of the Cougar football program after Victor Santa Cruz’s return to Hawaii after 19 years of coaching at APU. Carlton, a Colorado native, came to Azusa in 2002 and never looked back.
“The way my career has prepared me best is that I’ve come to have every vantage point you can possibly have of Azusa Pacific,” said Carlton.
In his 18 years at APU, Carlton has been a student-athlete, graduate student, assistant coach, faculty member, coordinator and head coach. He amassed 38 touchdowns and 4,373 yards passing in his playing career and promptly joined the coaching staff in 2008.
Before a stellar senior campaign in ‘07, the quarterback battled his way back from a separated shoulder that kept him sidelined for two seasons. He reverently reflects on his recovery as a pivotal growth point in his life.
“God really used that time to mold me and shape my identity,” said Carlton. “Having mentors and teammates and peers that surrounded me and helped me through that process shaped me a lot, not just in my identity, but in understanding the power the platform of football can have.”
Carlton has operated with a spiritual frame of mind since his days as a young coach and coordinator. He’s passionate about the things APU stands for. To him, football is “a vehicle to do so much more” — to affect life-transforming change in young men under his tutelage.
His approach has proven to be successful in his time as APU’s offensive coordinator. Since he earned a full-time job in 2010, his offenses have scored an average of 32.8 points per game. Since APU’s transition to NCAA Division II in 2012, Carlton has been the mastermind behind offenses that have helped the Cougars earn four Great Northwest Athletic Conference titles and two playoff berths.
APU’s climb towards national relevance was a direct result of their perseverance through the struggles they faced in their first year in Division II. They opened the season with seven straight losses, compelling them to ponder whether the NCAA was too great an aspiration for the program. Carlton remembers that season as a defining moment.
“Personally and collectively we showed a lot of grit by continuing to stick to the process and doing things the way we believed to do them,” said Carlton.
The Cougars finished the 2012 season with four straight wins and went 20-3 over the next two seasons. In that span, Carlton’s offense averaged 388 yards from scrimmage per game and scored 98 touchdowns.
Carlton has a big opportunity to revitalize the program as the man in charge this upcoming fall. Many head coaching changes are accompanied by massive overhaul, and APU finished 2019 with a disappointing 1-9 record. But Carlton remains confident in the foundation and culture of APU football.
“I hold a great deal of pride for the program,” said Carlton. “We have an amazing opportunity to keep building and growing. The mission of building champions while pursuing championships will remain the same.”
Carlton has built trust with players like senior quarterback Anthony Catalano from his time as their offensive coordinator. “The example that he sets will always be the standard and he will always be consistent,” said Catalano.
Consistency, a trait APU largely lacked last season, will be a preaching point for Carlton in his first year. Though APU is slated to play one of the toughest schedules in program history, its players will be inspired by Carlton’s infectious example of determination and faithfulness to the Cougar football tradition.
Carlton’s dedication to APU’s program as a player and successful record as its offensive coordinator made him the obvious selection for Athletic Director Gary Pine.
“He has gained a wealth of experience and perspective over his time here at Azusa Pacific by seeing the program from so many angles … and now gets to take all of that knowledge and use it to keep moving the program forward,” said Pine.
The gauntlet has been thrown down for APU football and all signs indicate that Rudy Carlton is the man for the job.