By MIKE McLAIN
YOUNGSTOWN - The last thing that Chris Rucker wants to see is a disabled Peyton Manning when the Indianapolis Colts open training camp.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Former WGH standout Chris Rucker was at Monday’s Ursuline football camp.
As a rookie cornerback with the Colts, the Warren G. Harding graduate would like nothing better than to get a chance to line up against Manning and intercept one of his passes. Manning recently revealed that he's still bothered by a neck injury that required offseason surgery.
"It's amazing to be around him," said Rucker, who was drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan State University. "Now to be on his team is amazing. I can't wait to be around him and see him in practice every day."
In most years Rucker would be planning to join his new teammates for the start of training camp near the end of the month. This isn't a normal year. The lockout of NFL players by the owners has put the clamps on all offseason activity, with the exception of work done by the players on their time.
It's not an easy situation for a rookie anxious to establish himself. Like every other player in the NFL, Rucker can't wait for the lockout to end so he can sign a contract and start the business of playing pro football.
"I've been waiting to start," said Rucker at this year's Ursuline Football Camp, which concludes today. "It's been a long time since we actually got to play football. Maybe the next week or so things will be settled, and we'll get back to playing football."
Rucker recently finished a stellar four-year career with the Spartans. Last season he was fifth on the team in tackles with 64 and was named All-Big Ten second team by "Rivals.com."
Rucker didn't waste much time in making his presence known in East Lansing. He started four games and appeared in eight as a freshman in 2007. He was honorable mention All-Big Ten the next two seasons, when he was firmly established as a starter.
What has to excite Colts' coaches is his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame. Big corners with speed are in high demand on any level of play.
"I'm more of a physical corner," he said. "I like to go against the bigger receivers. My size matches up with their size. I feel that will be a big advantage for me."
Playing against the quality receivers in the Big Ten was a great proving ground. There weren't many weeks when Rucker could take it easy.
"Week in and week out you played against a good team," he said. "A team with good receivers and good running backs. I think it really got me ready to take this next step."
Rucker hasn't had a chance to have much contact with his new teammates, and he's had no opportunity to get acclimated to life in Indianapolis. That doesn't matter to him at this time. He thinks he's found a good place to call home on the next step in his career.
"I was up there working out with one of my new teammates, Blair White, two weeks ago," Rucker said. "It was a good workout, and it felt good to be around the guys. I just wanted to go somewhere where I could fit in and help the team. I feel like this is a good situation for me. It's not too far away from home, and it's a good organization to be a part of because they have great leadership."
Now if the powers that be can only settle the labor dispute.
"The closer it gets to crunch time the more everyone wants to get things done," Rucker said. "No one doesn't want to have football."