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EIU's Rucker Happy with Steelers
Micah Rucker’s graduation ceremony is Saturday in Charleston, Ill. He’ll miss it for his NFL orientation.
As the NFL Draft rolled to a close Sunday night, Rucker, who watched the two-day, seven-round selection show from his Illinois apartment, agreed to a rookie free-agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Estero High product will fly to the Steel City for a meet-and-greet on Thursday and participate in a rookie minicamp through the weekend.
“A lot is going on,” said Rucker, an Eastern Illinois University receiver, “but it’s good. I like being busy.”
Rucker, a 2003 graduate of Estero from Bonita Springs, isn’t the only ex-Southwest Florida football star with a loaded schedule.
Lely product Steve Octavien, who led Nebraska in tackles last season, picked up a free-agent contract Sunday night with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rucker and Octavien went undrafted, but like other players in their position, they will still have the opportunity to make an NFL roster.
They can look to the likes of Anthony Herrera, a Barron Collier grad, for inspiration. He has become a fixture on the offensive line of the Minnesota Vikiings, who signed the University of Tennessee product in 2004 as an undrafted free agent.
For his part, Rucker, who hosted a barbeque Sunday for several friends, just wants the chance to show the Steelers his mettle.
And he’ll get that.
“I knew Pittsburgh was very interested in me the whole way through,” Rucker said. “It’s great the way everything worked out.”
Ben Roethlisberger might agree.
After the Steelers were knocked from the playoffs in January, Pittsburgh’s franchise quarterback commented that the team could use a big target for red-zone situations. His top two receivers, Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, stand 5-foot-11 and 6-0, respectively.
Pittsburgh nabbed Limas Sweed, a 6-4 receiver from the University of Texas, in the second round Saturday with hopes he can fill that role.
Rucker is 6-6, 220 pounds.
As of Monday night, the Steelers had signed 12 undrafted free agents. Rucker was the only receiver of the bunch.
He said he’s never been to Pittsburgh — but almost.
During the spring of his junior year at Estero, Rucker said he received a scholarship offer from the University of Pittsburgh, whose football team shares Heinz Field with the Steelers. He didn’t commit, waiting for a better offer to come around.
Rucker regrets that. He ended up choosing Minnesota over Wake Forest, with the offer from Pittsburgh no longer on the table.
“I thought I was big-time,” Rucker said with a laugh. “You just get so caught up in the whole recruiting process.”
The past few years have humbled him. Rucker transferred to Eastern Illinois, an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) school that competes in the Ohio Valley Conference, after playing two seasons with the Gophers.
He blossomed in the EIU offense, making 104 catches for 1,743 yards and 22 touchdowns. That must have caught Pittsburgh’s attention.
Rucker said he got a call from his agent, Brian Levy, during Sunday’s seventh round, saying that a deal with the Steelers was in the works.
Soon after that, Steelers receivers coach Randy Fichtner — “Mr. Randy,” as Rucker knows him — called to ask if Rucker was on board.
“I just told him I was happy for the opportunity,” Rucker said. “I’m ready to go.”
Estero’s Rucker happy with Steelers
By Scott Hotard, Naples Daily News