The Packers have announced that Dan Barutha of Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua, Wis., has been named the Green Bay Packers High School Coach of the Week.
Barutha, in his fifth year as head coach of the Thunderbirds, has his team out to a 1-3 start this season. They look to improve their record with a tough test against undefeated Rhinelander High School on Friday, Oct. 23. Upon his hire as head coach in 2016, Barutha immediately stressed the importance of his players to be servant leaders and give back to the community. To honor the strong support his team receives from military veterans, and both his grandfathers serving in the U.S. armed forces, each year Barutha and his players walk in the Minocqua Fourth of July Parade to collect money for the Never Forgotten Honor Flight, which flies military veterans from Northern Wisconsin to Washington D.C. to view the memorials that stand in their honor. Unfortunately, the parade had to be canceled this year, so the team looked for other ways to give back to this great cause.
"This year we decided to take up a collection box donation, with a lot of businesses around town and ran it for two and a half months," said Barutha. "Walking in the parade, we would raise anywhere from $1,500 up to $2,000 in donations. Every $500 that we raise goes to send a veteran on the honor flight. This year, with setting up the collection boxes throughout the community, we had our captains go out and gather the money from the boxes every couple of weeks, and we also ran some big fundraisers at different businesses around town. Through the fundraisers and collection boxes, we actually raised the highest amount we have ever had, and that was $11,500. We have the strong support of veterans here in the Northwoods area, and we just have always looked at this as a great opportunity for our players to be involved in something that's bigger themselves and to give back to the these people who are owed so much, but you can never truly repay."
Barutha grew up in Franklin, Wis., where he graduated from Franklin High School in 2005. Throughout high school, he participated in baseball and football. He played wide receiver under head coach Jesse Miller. Following high school, Barutha went on to graduate from UW-Milwaukee in 2009. Barutha's coaching career began as an assistant coach for his high school alma mater in 2008. In 2011, he coached for one year as an assistant for Whitnall High School, before taking another assistant coaching role at Beloit Turner High School in 2012. After four years at Beloit Turner, Barutha would go on to be named the head coach at Lakeland Union in 2016.
For Barutha, the Coach of the Week Award helps to provide an illustration of all the great things the Thunderbirds are doing in the community.
"High school athletics, in my opinion, go beyond just wins and losses. The majority of high school coaches feel that way, but for us to be able to give back to people within our community and show the dedication and commitment we have to our community and to people and veterans within our community, I think that's really incredible."
Barutha and his staff oversee a program of 55 players with 35 suiting up for varsity games. His assistant staff includes Justin Nimsgern, John Kafura, Mike Mestelle, Sid Hunter, Dave Wineburner, Steve Wiczek, Duane Updike, and Matt Krueger. In addition to coaching, Barutha is a Math Interventionist at Lakeland Union High School. Barutha and his wife, Kailey, have one daughter, Ellie.
About the Green Bay Packers High School Coach of the Week Program:
The Green Bay Packers Coach of the Week program supports football outreach efforts by giving high school coaches the recognition they deserve. Nominations can be submitted by 10 a.m. every Monday to Ryan Fencl, Packers football outreach specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org. All nominations should include the nominee's name, address, school, phone number and reason he/she is deserving of the award. This year, because some schools have postponed their football seasons to the spring due to COVID-19, the Packers are seeking coaches to be nominated regardless of their teams' on-field performance or whether they are playing in the fall or spring. Rather, the nominee could be honored for how they have turned programs around, how the team has impacted the community, or how the coach impacts the players and their families.