|I met and interviewed Mike Rucker during the regular season last year, and he's one of the nicest guys you could ever ask to meet. He was participating in the Play-60 program and having fun with the kids - that's a sign of a real stand-up guy. Helping children.
The other reason is - and I asked him specifically about this - he played opposite of Julius Peppers in his prime. I asked Mike if it mattered to him that one guy was getting all the attention and limelight while he (Mike Rucker) was virtually ignored.
His answer was very professional: It didn't matter so long as we won. He said his job was to do whatever he was asked to do and he did it as well as he could every single down. I also learned that the most difficult offensive lineman for him to solve was New Orleans' Willie Roaf....who has just launched into the NFL Hall of Fame if I'm not mistaken.
Rucker's play and attitude was all about the TEAM. Give me 11 guys like that, and even I could build a winner. He felt if the team did well, any individual accolades would take care of themselves. While he's not the best or most famous or longest-tenured lineman the Panthers have ever had, that "team" thought process and the fact that he played the same position I did when I was able to play in high school (RDE) made me settle on him for the name of my league.
Not the biggest, fastest or strongest guy on the field, his work ethic and team-first attitude are things to admire as they carry over well beyond football and into life in general.