Constance Luttrell will nearly be in a class of her own when high school football begins across Tennessee next week.
East Robertson recently picked Luttrell to be its defensive coordinator, making her one of just two current female high school football coaches in the state. The other is Alyson Pointer at Austin-East in Knoxville.
“It’s a dream come true,” Luttrell said. “I’ve always wanted to coach under the ‘Friday Night Lights,’ and now I’m going to get to do it.”
Brittney Garner became Tennessee’s first female high school football head coach in 2014 when Pickett County dismissed its coach three weeks into the season. Other female coaches have been assistants over the years, but Luttrell and Pointer are believed to the only two in Tennessee this season.
Luttrell spent the last eight seasons as the head coach at T.W. Hunter Middle School in Hendersonville. She won two Sumner County Middle School Championships (2015, 2019) and was named Coach of the Year twice (2015, 2017).
“A good football coach is a good football coach,” East Robertson head coach Atlee Pond said. “A good leader is a good leader. Gender doesn’t define that.”
Pond said he was impressed by Luttrell’s resume. A few East Robertson upperclassmen who knew Luttrell even petitioned for her hiring.
“I think when (the players) heard about her resume, it opened their eyes,” Pond said. “She established a good relationship with the kids on her first day of practice. They knew quick that she meant business. She demands everything you’ve got, and if you’re not doing that, she’ll let you know about it.”
Many of Luttrell’s T.W. Hunter players later starred at Beech High School, which won the 2012 TSSAA Class 5A state title and finished as the runner-up in 2017. At least one – former East Nashville High School and LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips – made it to the NFL. Phillips was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in April and signed a four-year, $4.5 million contract with the team last month.
Luttrell has been around football for three decades. She served as a student manager at White House High School under coach Jeff Porter in the early 1990s, though she was far more than a water girl.
“Coach Porter told me it was like he was losing an assistant coach when I graduated,” she said. “I have just always loved the game.”
Luttrell had hoped to enter the high school coaching ranks in an official capacity sooner, but she was passed over for assistant jobs on multiple occasions. She eventually stopped applying and focused on her role at T.W. Hunter.
“I don’t think I was taken seriously,” she said. “By law, they had to interview me. I had two or three or four different interviews and finally (gave up) for a while.”
Now Luttrell finds herself where she wanted to be. She takes over an East Robertson defense that has three returning linemen (Jalen Bravo, Bryce Brown and Cameron Smith) and a secondary that includes 247Sports four-star prospect Taylor Groves and his younger brother, Shaun.
Pond and Luttrell agreed that her first week on the job was a success. The Indians have welcomed their new coach with open arms.
“They were really accepting,” Luttrell said of the players. “I was kind of nervous about that at first, but the kids are great. Coach Pond told me that he had a few texts from the kids after the first few practices saying that they were glad I was there.”
Luttrell acknowledged that she has visions of eventually becoming a high school head coach, though she knows she must continue to show she belongs.
In her eyes, that comes with working in a male-dominated sport.
“Being a female coach, I feel like I have to constantly prove myself every day,” she said. “And that’s OK. It keeps me hungry.”