Cleveland, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Jacksonville and, hopefully, Kansas City.
Martin Rucker has bounced around plenty of places in a short NFL career. It will be six teams in five seasons if he earns a contract with the Chiefs following this weekend’s minicamp tryout.
“I would love for this to be the last stop, but at the same time, I know God has a plan for my life, and that keeps me ticking,” Rucker said. “As long as he tells me this is what I’m supposed to keep on doing to use my platform for him, then that’s what I’m going to keep on doing.”
Rucker was set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, but Jacksonville declined to offer the tight end a tender and the wheels were set in motion for joining yet another franchise. This wasn’t the career path anyone had in mind when Rucker was selected 111th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
It was Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel that gave Rucker his first chance in Cleveland. The former University of Missouri star was the most decorated tight end to come out of the Big 12 conference, leaving Columbia as the school’s all-time receptions leader. His 203 career receptions were the most ever by a Big 12 tight end at the time.
But for whatever reason, Crennel hinted it might be his blocking ability, Rucker as struggled to find long-term employment in the NFL and he’s played in just 12 career games.
Rucker has been cut five times, acquired off waivers, joined practice squads and has now gone through a rookie minicamp tryout since being selected in the fourth-round just four years ago. His shortest stint included a one day stay in Tampa Bay when he failed a physical after being claimed off waivers from Philadelphia.
“I’m not able to answer that completely,” Crennel said when asked to pinpoint the reasoning for Rucker’s travels. “He made a good effort with us while he was in Cleveland, but he wasn’t able to make an impact.
“As this tight end position – in colleges and in the NFL – transitions, sometimes guys get caught in between. I think that he was one of those tight ends who was a big tight end that was flexed out quite a bit, so I think sometimes the team you get with playing that position makes a difference.”
“All I do is go in and do my job to the best of my ability,” Rucker said. “I try and get better at every place that I go to, but for some reason it just hasn’t worked out. But God’s got a plan and (Kansas City) might be the end of the road.”
The Chiefs have been open to adding tight ends this offseason after
“This one is definitely special,” Rucker said of his tryout with the Chiefs. “Growing up 47 miles north, watching these guys every Sunday, coming to a couple games a year. I played in the stadium as a Tiger, but to strap it on as a Chief would be an awesome moment.”
Rucker certainly has a chance to fit with his athletic ability creating defensive mismatches and his previous relationship working with Crennel.
He played in five games as a rookie under Crennel and made one start, but didn’t survive a coaching change the following season in Cleveland.
“I’m not sure if that played a part,” Rucker said of potentially being asked to tryout because of his previous experience playing under Crennel. “I haven’t talked to him about that. I’ve spoken with him, but he’s never mentioned that. I just think that they saw me as a player out there who might be able to help the Chiefs, so here I am.”
From Cleveland to Kansas City and every stop in-between, Rucker isn’t ready to give up on his football career if he isn’t offered a contract following this tryout. If an offer isn’t extended, he’ll go back to training at Athletes’ Performance in Dallas, Texas.
“The kid is a hard worker, he’s a good, quality person, it just hasn’t worked out for him to this point,” Crennel said.
Maybe that will change this weekend.