Honors & Awards
- Drafted by the Carolina Panthers (1999 - 2nd Round, Pick #38)
- University of Nebraska Graduate (December, 1998)
- Member of Three Nebraska National Championship Teams (1994, 1995, 1997)
- Second-Team All-Big 12 (Coaches, AP, Kansas City Star, Houston Chronicle, 1998)
- Big 12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week (vs. Colorado, 11/27/1998)
- ABC/Chevrolet NU Player-of-the-Game (vs. Colorado, 11/27/1998)
- Honorable-Mention All-Big 12 (Coaches, 1997)
- Nominee for Big 12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week (vs. Missouri, 11/8/1997)
Mike Rucker closed a strong Nebraska career ranked among the top five players in school history with 40 tackles for loss (175 yards). He also ranked among the top 10 Blackshirts in Husker annals with 17 sacks (132 yards), despite playing behind two-time All-American and Lombardi Award winner Grant Wistrom for a majority of his career. Rucker appeared in 45 games for the Huskers and finished with 136 tackles (56 solo), six pass breakups and 36 quarterback hurries which caused four interceptions. He also forced five fumbles, recovering two throughout his four year career.
Following his success at Nebraska, Rucker was drafted in the second round, with the 38th overall pick, by the Carolina Panthers in the 1999 NFL Draft. He would spend his entire NFL career (1999-2007) with the organization. Rucker appeared in 139 games, starting 106 of them, throughout his nine year career. He would retire from the gridiron following the 2007 season, but not before racking up a total of 421 tackles, 55.5 sacks and 25 pass breakups. He was also credited with 15 forced fumbles, one interception and a safety.
In his only year as a full-time starter, Rucker posted a career-high 53 tackles (21 solo) while notching nine tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also caused three fumbles and three more interceptions. He ended the year with 11 quarterback hurries and one pass breakup.
In Nebraska's 16-14 win over Colorado, Rucker forced a pair of fumbles to help preserve the Husker victory while earning Big 12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors. He was also named the ABC/Chevrolet Player-of-the-Game for his effort against the Buffaloes. He posted career highs of 11 tackles against both Oklahoma State and Texas as a senior. He also stuffed OSU's Nathan Simmons on the game's final play to preserve NU's 20-13 win over the Cowboys on Oct. 3.
In the 1998 Holiday Bowl against Arizona, Rucker notched seven solo tackles, including five tackles for loss (17 yards) with one nine-yard sack.
Rucker played a key role in 1997, posting 15 tackles for loss for the Huskers. He alternated with Chad Kelsay at left rush end, starting the first game and the last two contests of the season. Rucker finished eighth on the team in tackles with 38 (17 solo). He also ranked second on the team in sacks with 7.5 sacks for 56 yards lost, while tying for second in tackles for loss with 15 for 70 yards lost. Rucker added four pass breakups, one forced fumble (against Oklahoma) and ranked third among the Blackshirts with 15 quarterback hurries. He posted a season-high six tackles, including three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks against Missouri. He combined with Grant Wistrom on a big sack to end the game in Nebraska's overtime win over the Tigers.
In the Orange Bowl win over Tennessee, Rucker recorded three solo tackles, including the game's only sack. He also recovered a fumble that led to Nebraska's first score on the way to the Huskers' third national championship in four seasons.
Rucker served as the backup to All-American Grant Wistrom at right rush end, but was considered a first-teamer, alternating into every game. Rucker ranked second only to Wistrom in tackles for loss with 15 for 68 yards lost. Rucker also ranked second on the team in sacks with 7.0 for 48 yards, while adding a pass breakup.
Rucker caused and recovered one fumble against Missouri, recording a two-yard gain to the MU 8-yard line, leading to a Husker touchdown three plays later. Rucker also posted eight quarterback hurries on the year, causing one interception (against Missouri). He produced season-bests with five tackles on three occasions, including a win over Texas Tech, when he had a career-best four sacks for 24 yards lost (the top effort by any Husker in 1996). He also notched one quarterback hurry against the Red Raiders. Rucker recorded four tackles for loss against Michigan State (21 yards).
In the 1996 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, Rucker added two more tackles for loss, including a sack and a forced fumble. He hit Virginia Tech's Jim Druckenmiller for a two-yard loss and a sack while knocking the ball loose. Fellow Blackshirt Jason Peter scooped up the fumble and rumbled 31 yards for a touchdown to give NU a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.
In his first year on the field for the Huskers, Rucker appeared in nine games while serving as the backup to right outside linebackers Grant Wistrom and Chad Kelsay. Rucker finished the year with 13 tackles on the season, including one 16-yard sack against Kansas State. Rucker's block on Mike Fullman's 79-yard punt return touchdown against the Wildcats sent Joe Gordon's helmet flying. Rucker recorded a season-high five tackles in the opener against Oklahoma State. He added three tackles against Kansas, then did not see action in the last two games of the year.
Rucker had one tackle in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, a seven-yard sack of Danny Wuerffel, helping Nebraska to a 52-24 victory over Florida in the national championship game.
A scholarship athlete, Rucker redshirted his first season at Nebraska. Following Nebraska's 1995 Orange Bowl victory over Miami to win the national title, Rucker had shoulder surgery but recovered quickly and returned for the spring season.
Before Nebraska (Benton High School)
A tight end and inside/outside linebacker and kicker, Rucker was a Bluechip Illustrated All-America linebacker and earned all-state honors his final two seasons of high school football. He caught 15 passes for 300 yards as a senior. He was the team's leading tackler with 168 stops, including 58 solos, leading Benton to a 28-8 three-year record. Rucker placed fourth in the state in the shot put as a junior and was the state champion in 1994, with a throw of 54-2. He went unbeaten in 10 meets during his senior season. Rucker lettered 10 times in high school, including three each in football and basketball and four in track.
The son of Martin and LaVell Rucker, Mike was born Feb. 28, 1975. Mike majored in sociology and earned his bachelor's degree from Nebraska in December of 1998.
Rucker's Career Statistics
Fumble Returns: 1-2 yards in 1996 vs. Missouri
Tackles: 11 vs. Oklahoma State, Texas, 1998
Tackles for Loss: 5-17 vs. Arizona, 1998 (Holiday Bowl)
1996 Fiesta Bowl vs. Florida: Tackles 1 UT, 0 AT, 1 TT; Sacks 1-7
1996 Orange Bowl vs. Virginia Tech: Tackles 2 UT, 0 AT, 2 TT; TFL 1-2; Sacks 1-2; Fumbles Caused 1
1998 Orange Bowl vs. Tennessee: Tackles 3 UT, 0 AT, 3 TT; TFL 1-9; Sacks 1-9; Fumbles Recovered 1
1998 Holiday Bowl vs. Arizona: Tackles 7 UT, 0 AT, 7 TT; TFL 5-17; Sacks 1-9