Tradition Never Graduates in the St. Rita Football Program

Written By: Ed Leiser '04

With football season just around the corner, the St. Rita Family is gearing up to cheer on our Mustangs, who have been preparing for a great 2016 season. Head Coach Todd Kuska '90 always makes sure current Mustangs know about St. Rita's legendary tradition. 

In keeping with that philosophy, we also always love to check in on past players and alumni of St. Rita High School. Recently, this past July, two St. Rita graduates received recognition on the national level, appearing in articles on espn.com.

J.J. Standring ’97 was recently selected to the Northwestern University “All-Century” Team: Best Lineup of the 2000’s, by ESPN writers. The roster was compiled of the best Wildcats of this century. Standring, a four-year starter at punter for the Cats, had the fourth-best punting season in Northwestern school history. J.J. earned a 43.1 yards-per-punt average in the 2001 season. He holds the best punting average of any punter since 2000. Standring is entering his 15th season as an assistant coach for the St. Rita Mustangs varsity program, and also is an assistant for the baseball team. 

Ryan Donahue '06 at St. Rita Football Camp

A few days after the Northwestern lineup was announced on espn.com, another former Mustang kicker, Ryan Donahue ’06, was chosen as the punter for the University of Iowa's“All-Century” Team. Donahue was a U.S. Army All-American as a senior at St. Rita. He holds dozens of kicking records at St. Rita. While at Iowa, Donahue was a Ray Guy Finalist (top punter in the nation). He also had six punts go for 68 yards or more—including a massive 82-yarder in 2007, which was the longest punt since 1962 for the Big-10 school. The three-year varsity starter for the Mustangs also unleashed an 85-yarder while a senior at St. Rita. Donahue spent a season punting for the Detroit Lions in the NFL, after his Iowa playing days. 

Of course, Donahue was coached by Standring during 2003—2005 while kicking for the Mustangs, helping to build a strong legacy of St. Rita kickers that have enjoyed (or are enjoying) successful careers at the collegiate level.

After J.J. left St. Rita for Northwestern, his younger brother, Paul Standring '03 went on to another Big-10 school, The University of Wisconsin, where he went on to kick and was a special teams standout.

Steve Flaherty '08, followed J.J.’s path to Northwestern, earning a football scholarship to kick in college.

(L to R:) Principal Brendan Conroy (Hon), Max Kurucar '12 and Head Coach Todd Kuska '90 

(L to R:) Principal Brendan Conroy (Hon), Max Kurucar '12 and Head Coach Todd Kuska '90 

A few years later, Max Kurucar ’12, went on to the Ivy League where he was a punter for the University of Pennsylvania

John Kelly ’14 (Lindenwood University) and Nick Goldsmith ’14 (University of Pittsburgh) are currently kicking in college, and are the latest products of Coach J.J. Standring’s expertise.

Senior Punter/Tight End Tim Zaleski

The tradition continues with a current Mustang--rising senior Tim Zaleski (St. Catherine of Alexandria grammar school, Oak Lawn). The 6’4” senior Punter/Tight End has already been offered a chance to play for the Air Force and Army next year. Tim was featured recently in an article for the Daily Southtown:

The recent success of St. Rita kickers speaks to not only the athletic prowess and storied history of the football program, but also to the loyalty and dedication of J.J. Standring to continuously give back and coach his fellow Ritamen after him.

Ritamen are passionately involved in their alma mater, with nearly 40 graduates currently on coaching staffs of various teams.  There are an additional 18 alumni working in full-time roles as teachers, administrators, and staff at St. Rita daily.

We are proud of our successful graduates who have played collegiately, and also to the support they have received over the years from the alumni that came before them.

Hit ‘em high, Hit ‘em low….Go Rita Go!