Oklahoma State quarterbacks coach Tim Rattay has a history of outperforming expectations.
Despite not starting a high school game until his senior year, not being scouted out of high school and not being drafted until the 7th round, Rattay still made a name for himself by continuously breaking records-- despite the odds not being in his favor.
Now, the 43-year-old coach is tasked with another big test: coach and mentor a very potent QB in Spencer Sanders. If history is to repeat itself, Rattay will succeed with flying colors.
Rattay’s history of impressive football achievements started in 1996, when he chose to play at Scottsdale Community College since no school had sent him an offer. Initially there were five quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart, but Rattay beat them all out in weeks. This experience taught him a lesson that he still teaches.
“It’s like I tell my players now, ‘don’t worry about where you are on the depth chart, just go out there everyday and just worry about having a really good practice,” Rattay said. “If you stack a bunch of good practices together, then good things will happen. So I just kind of had to put my head down and work and see where it all played out.”
That year Rattay led all junior-college QBs in total yards and touchdowns. This was good enough to garner interest from Louisiana Tech University-- a school that would bring him to national prominence. However, it wasn’t the school itself that brought him to a heightened level of celebrity, but rather what he did with the opportunity that sparked his eventual rise.
At Louisiana Tech, Rattay threw for 12,746 yards, broke multiple school records, finished top-10 in Heisman voting in 1998 and has the 19th-best single season yards record in NCAA history.
Rattay’s success is noted-- and a point of excitement-- for some of his players.
“I’m pretty aware that he’s probably a good football player,” Spencer Sanders said. “I’m just excited to learn from him so I can only go up from here… It’s great to learn knowledge and learn a little bit about the next level.”
And Rattay is quite knowledgeable about that “next level”-- the NFL. After Louisiana Tech, Rattay was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 7th round of the 2000 NFL draft-- where Rattay would experience a familiar adversity.
Rattay was last on the depth chart during San Francisco’s training camp, but outperformed expectations and beat out fellow rookie-- and third rounder-- Giovanni Carmazzi. Rattay would eventually replace Jeff Garcia and became a starter in the NFL.
“I think I spent three years as the backup to Jeff and I needed some time to get used to the NFL game,” Rattay said. “Just all those reps (in practice and preseason) kind of helped. I was excited about the opportunity and felt like I was ready… But it definitely helped me to be able to learn and watch Jeff a couple years before I got my chance.”
As time went on, Rattay bounced around the league and could never find a consistent team to play on. But, as one of his former coaches on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jay Gruden, said, this fact doesn’t take away from how hard he worked.
“I just remember how hard he worked and what a great guy he was and he’s fun to be around,” Gruden said. “That carried over. He was a great leader, the players all respected him, all liked him.”
After continuing to play for different teams and a short stint in the United Football League, Rattay eventually retired in 2010. Despite having prior successes, his post-NFL career is where things really took off for him.
Rattay used his leadership and hard work to make a seamless transition into a lifelong dream: coaching.
“I was going to be a coach the whole time I was going to college,” Rattay said. “My dad is a high school football coach so I grew up around football, it was the thing that interested me the most… So my plan was after Louisiana Tech if I didn’t play anywhere I was going to start coaching either high school or college, but I knew it was the path I wanted.”
Rattay briefly served as a wide receivers coach for the Las Vegas Locomotives-- the team he most recently played for-- before being hired at his alma mater to the same position.
At Louisiana Tech, Rattay was a positive influence over many players, especially NFL QB Jeff Driskel.
“He was the receiver coach, but I was around him all the time,” Driskel said. “He played quarterback in the NFL for a while so I was always kind of talking to him, picking his brain about that. He was just an awesome person to be around, great coach, great guy.”
Driskel also noted that, despite Rattay having over 10 years of NFL QB experience, he always remained committed to the WR coach position-- and even learned more as a result.
“I don’t think he overstepped any boundaries, he knew he was the receiver coach and he was focused on those guys,” Driskel said. “I think when he was a receivers coach, he could really look at the game from a different perspective than somebody who had been playing receiver or coaching receiver their whole careers. He made it really quarterback friendly in the receiver room. And now, in the other way, having coached receivers, he can see both sides of it.”
But Rattay would eventually get his shot to coach his position as Louisiana Tech promoted him to QB coach in 2015. The two quarterbacks he coached during his stint as QB coach rank top 10 in school passing yards. Rattay’s coaching momentum was gaining and people were starting to watch.
One person in particular who noticed was a prominent figure in Rattay’s past: then-Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden. Gruden hired Rattay as the Redskins QB coach in 2019-- and Rattay impressed him right away.
“I think that (connection with Gruden) definitely helped,” Rattay said. “I had interviewed with the Raiders a couple years ago with Jon (Gruden) and it didn’t work out, but the very next year Jay had a spot open. So I reached out to Jay and obviously him knowing me from my playing days and I’m sure he called Jon and asked how I was in the interview room. (It) definitely I think helped me get that job and I went and interviewed and got it.”
During their time together on the same staff, Gruden was impressed with Rattay right away.
“Well he’s got some energy, got some experience,” Gruden said. “He’s coached, he’s played quarterback at a high level, he’s coached at a lot of different levels. He’s a great guy, got great energy. And really he can understand and learn a system very quickly. I only had him for one year as a quarterback coach with the Redskins and he picked it up effortlessly, was able to communicate with the young quarterbacks, the veteran quarterbacks. He can speak to all kinds of different types of people and communicate with them. He’s a great leader and all around great guy with great energy.”
In Washington, Rattay’s QB room was filled with various types of players: a first-round pick rookie, a veteran with career stability, and someone who shattered their leg a year prior. Managing these different situations seems difficult, but Rattay excelled in doing so.
“We had a different quarterback room, we had Dwayne Haskins, a rookie, we had Case Keenum, we had Alex Smith with an injury,” Gruden said. “All with different personalities, but they all got along with Tim and Tim did a great job of coaching those guys. So his experience of me being with him as a coach and watching him as a player and watching him grow as a coach made it an easy hire for me.”
However, things didn’t go the way Rattay had hoped. The rebuilding Redskins finished with a 3-13 record in 2019, Gruden was fired and the entire organization went in a different direction in the following offseason-- which meant an exciting new opportunity for Rattay.
Rattay returned to his college roots after being hired by OSU in January 2020, a move that has many of his former colleagues excited.
“We all kind of left after getting let go by Washington, it was a tough deal for everybody, but I think it was time for everybody to move on and fortunately Tim got a great job at Oklahoma State,” Gruden said. “It’s a great program and he’s excited to get back to college. I know he liked the NFL for the years he was in it, he would like to have more years probably, but there’s nothing wrong with going to a big program like Oklahoma State. I know he’s gonna love it.”
His current working partners are ecstatic as well.
“I wanted to make sure that we could get a quarterbacks coach that was a really good technician and could bring our guys along and recruit that position,” Gundy said “So that’s how we ended up with Kasey (Dunn) in charge and Tim coaching quarterbacks.”
Rattay is ready for the opportunity to work with a program-- and offense-- that he respects a great deal.
“Well it’s obviously the tradition,” Rattay said. “You know, the opportunity to come here, just asking the other coaches that have worked here, that knew coach Gundy, just nothing but positive things. And obviously the history of the offense and quarterback play speaks for itself here. So when the opportunity came up, coach Gundy offered me the job and I jumped on it. I’m excited to be here.”
In his short time at OSU, Rattay’s presence has already been felt. His coaching style is meshing with the offense and some players are adjusting well to his personality.
“I really get along with coach Rattay, I really love his personality and I feel like we really get along, ” Spencer Sanders said. “I feel like he’s kind of got a small town vibe to him, I really connect with that. We’ve connected really quickly and building that chemistry so fast helps the learning process.
Whether it's socializing, persevering through QB depth charts or rising through the coaching ranks, Tim Rattay is mastering the coaching game. This is evident in the connections he’s made and success stories he’s bred-- and it’s the reason why many people are rooting for him throughout this unique coaching journey
“I remember him as a player and just have a lot of respect for Tim,” Gruden said. “He’s gonna do a great job at Oklahoma State and be passionate about the game. That’s the most important thing, that passion has to be sincere and genuine and that’s what he’ll bring to the Oklahoma State program.”