Dolphins sign former Huskie end

By Matt Stacionis

Lamain Rucker wanted to give up on his NFL hopes.

The former NIU defensive end, once a highly taunted NFL prospect, didn’t know what his future would hold. Less than two year ago, he left school and started working for the NIU Transportation Department.

“There’s been plenty of times where I thought it wasn’t going to happen,” Rucker said of his NFL possibilities. “At times, I had given up. Sometimes, I was working out real hard, then I would just stop working out because I thought it wasn’t going to happen.”

Then, a couple of days before Rucker’s 22nd birthday, he received a call from the Miami Dolphins. The Dec. 19 phone call came as a surprise to Rucker. He had tried out in front of NFL scouts before but wasn’t anticipating a call now.

“I went down there, and everything went good,” Rucker said. “They signed me to a two-year contract.”

Rucker will start off in NFL Europe this summer before he plays for the Dolphins. Rucker said he wants to use his time in NFL Europe to fine-tune some of his skills. He also wants to jump at any chance to play at the highest level of professional football he can. He doesn’t know yet what team he will play for but said he should find out soon.

Rucker will stay in DeKalb until mid-March. He withdrew from classes this semester because he would be forced to leave halfway through the term. During his DeKalb stay, he plans to work out at the rec every day until he leaves. He also will have the next two-and-a-half months to prepare for what’s waiting for him in Europe.

“It’s the next, the highest level of competition that you can play,” Rucker said of NFL Europe. “I’m just worried because I just don’t know what’s to come. I’m not worried about competing. I always knew I could compete in the NFL.”

A Collins High School graduate, Rucker is a role model for younger city kids to follow. Rucker’s former coach, Roger Love, said that Rucker attending NIU can serve as something just as positive as his NFL career.

“No, he did go to college after he left Collins High School,” Love said.

But Love also wished Rucker would have remained at NIU until he completed his degree. He hopes Rucker one day will return to finish his degree.

“I was really disappointed he left school,” Love said. “It doesn’t surprise me [that he made the NFL], I just wished he would have stayed in school.”

Rucker sees himself as someone Collins’ students can look up to. He said there are pictures of him hanging on the school walls, serving as a constant reminder of his playing days there.

“They already have a couple up there from high school days,” he said. “I always thought of myself as a leader.”

Even though the past year-and-a-half has been rough, Rucker believes this may be his chance to find happiness. It also may be fitting that Rucker now has a chance to start over in a new league and leave his mark there.

“I’m happy, excited,” he said. “I can’t wait to get down and play. It’s been a childhood dream.”