By Ben Goldstein and Lucy Jackson
If the 4 p.m. freshman football games ever lacked the glamour of a Friday night varsity game under the lights, they just got the boost they needed.
Actor Ashton Kutcher, trading in his trademark trucker caps for a hat adorned with the schoolâs insignia, joined the squad last month as an assistant coach and patrolled the sidelines for each of the teamâs three games so far this season. Best known for his role as Kelso on “That 70âs Show” and for his celebrity pranks on “Punkâd,” Kutcher is a friend of Head Coach Scott Wood â88 and mentioned to Wood he was interested in coaching.
“I played football when I was in high school and Iâve always wanted to coach,” Kutcher said. “And given the opportunity, I decided to take it up.”
Kutcher went through the same selection process as every other coaching candidate, Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas said. He was interviewed by the freshman coach, by Head of the Program and varsity Head Coach Vic Eumont and by Barzdukas himself. He went through the same background check and fingerprinting process that all employees of the school undergo.
“Heâs humble, he wants to contribute and he wants to be a part of the team and their success,” Barzdukas said. “You can tell also he has done his work in a remarkably short time. Heâs put in the time to learn our schemes and our systems.”
Kutcher, a middle linebacker in high school, said that coaching is an entirely different experience from playing on the field.
“Itâs so new that I almost canât even tell you what itâs like,” Kutcher said. “You have to know every position, not just your own, which changes the game. Itâs just an honor to be around such a good group of guys. Theyâre cool kids.”
Kutcher specializes in coaching the linebackers and defense, but all of the coaches collaborate with the entire team, Wood said.
In their first game of the season on Sept. 5, the Wolverines defeated Franklin 21-12 in what Barzdukas calls a “miracle.” Despite several injuries, the squad was able to overcome Franklinâs 54 player-team with just 13 players in uniform.
The team continued its success in home games Sept. 12 and Sept. 26 against Lynwood and Rosemeade, winning the games 14-0 and 40-0, respectively. Kutcher has high hopes for the season, saying that the ultimate goal is to go undefeated.
“If you donât shoot for the stars, youâll never reach the rooftops,” he said.
Kutcherâs presence on the field ensured that at least a dozen paparazzi were there to document the first two wins on camera.
Director of Campus Operations James De MattÃ© said that the attention of celebrity photographers was “just too much.”
“If heâs at a premiere, thatâs one thing. Thatâs his job,” he said. “But at a football game?”
For the home game against Lynwood, paparazzi swarmed around a gap in the trees surrounding the field and snapped pictures from Coldwater Canyon after security personnel denied them entry onto the campus. Equipped with telephoto lenses and video cameras, they jostled for position, some using stepladders to get a clearer view.
One photographer, who scaled a tree just inside the school gates to get a better angle, said many of them worked for X17, a celebrity gossip website that displays candid photos of celebrities. The photographers trail stars and take pictures of everything they do, regardless of how trivial, he said.
Barzdukas agreed that the story isnât worth the media attention that it has received.
“The story here is the non-story,” he said. “Heâs a coach like any other coach. He comes to meetings, he does his work.”
While Kutcher may be well-seasoned in dealing with paparazzi, De MattÃ© doesnât think the players have been fazed by the media either.
“Youâre in the middle of Hollywood,” he said. “Itâs typical in our society that this happens. I think people are fed up with it, if anything.”