Wednesday, July 11, 2012
July 11, 2012
By MATT WAGNER
BAZETTA - Heading into the final corner of a lap around the football field, the Lakeview Little Bulldogs received encouragement from an inspiring source - a professional football player.
Warren G. Harding graduate and current Indianapolis defensive back Chris Rucker skipped along while cheering on stragglers to finish off the lap.
It was a part of a special meeting with the Little Bulldogs program for the Colt to speak to the players.
Warren native and Colts player Chris Rucker talks to the Little Bulldogs Tuesday.
"I remember as a kid, it always felt good to have somebody that you looked up to or someone that you wanted to be like come talk to you," Rucker said. "It was definitely a confidence booster. I know it will go a long way in their futures."
The former Michigan State Spartan spoke to the team and fielded questions from the players - including his thoughts on new Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. He also signed autographs and took photos with the players and their families after the question and answer segment.
He advised them about life, telling the kids to work hard in school and sports, as well as to never give up or allow someone to tell them to give up.
The players paid close attention to his words and seemed excited by the presence of a professional football player.
"He gave us a lot of good advice and stuff for us to follow in his footsteps as much as we could," said Brandon Rizzo, 11, a member of the 140-pound team.
This was the second day in a row that Rucker spoke to children. The former Michigan State Spartan took part in Mario Manningham's camp in Warren the day before.
Rucker came after a father of a player asked his mother, a co-worker, if he would talk to the team.
He didn't hesitate and said he would love to talk to the children.
"A lot of these people either don't have the time, don't want to come or they try and charge you," coach Brandon Warner, 36, said. "(Rucker) just came of his own free will."
For Rucker, it is a somewhat of a weird feeling to be in this situation.
At only 23 years old, the cornerback completed his rookie season where he exceeded expectations.
The Colts drafted Rucker in the sixth round, becoming the 45th defensive back taken in that round. Of those 45 players, only 11 recorded 10 tackles in their rookie season and only four were starters in their rookie season.
Rucker accomplished both for the Colts despite suffering a 2-14 record. He amassed 36 tackles and starting four games at corner back for the Colts.
"It feels a little weird, but it comes with the territory," Rucker said. "Playing as a professional athlete, you have a lot of young people who look up to you, so when you have that opportunity, you have to take advantage of it."
Although it might be weird for him, he and Warner said this meant a lot to the Little Bulldog players.
"Coming from me, they love to hear, coming from their parents, they love to hear it, but when it comes from an NFL football player, it gives me something," Warner said. "I can just reiterate what (Rucker) said and remind them.
"I guarantee (that) when somebody's running around, and you'll watch them start to slow up and take off when I remind them he came to talk to them."