Through the first two days of practice at this year’s Senior Bowl, Jeremy Ruckert appeared destined to leave Mobile, Alabama as one of the week’s biggest winners. Then he suffered a setback.
While he was singled out by many draft analysts as a top performer after each of the first two days of practice, he was unable to finish out the week of practice or play in the game after suffering plantar fasciitis in his foot.
As a result, Ruckert also won’t be participating in workouts with the rest of the tight ends when they take the field for workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday afternoon. He expects to be ready to go through a full on-field workout at Ohio State’s pro day on March 23, but after missing some training time due to the injury, he didn’t want to risk being unable to perform at his best or aggravating the injury at the combine.
“It wasn’t really anything big, I just couldn’t really do a little bit for a couple of weeks so I didn’t want to come out here and not be prepared or hurt it a little bit worse,” Ruckert said. “Nothing serious. I’ll try to get ready for my pro day on the 23rd.”
Nevertheless, Ruckert is glad he chose to go to the Senior Bowl and believes he benefited from the experience.
“It was great,” Ruckert said. “At Ohio State, I really had one coaching staff the whole time which was great, didn’t really have a lot to adapt to so picking up a new playbook pretty quick was a good experience for me. I feel like I did a pretty good job of it. There were a bunch of great tight ends on my team so it was cool to talk to those guys, talk about our games, just get together. I felt like I had a good week talking to teams and on the field it went really well, too.”
While Ruckert is disappointed he won’t be able to do on-field workouts on Thursday, he’s still trying to make the most of his combine experience as well. Ruckert will participate in the bench press on Thursday and has been going through meetings with NFL team representatives all week.
“I’m kind of bummed out I’m not running. I wish I could have ran for everybody,” Ruckert said. “But I’m going to be benching. Didn’t want to come here and do nothing so I’ll be just doing the bench, talking to teams and doing this stuff and just trying to get the most out of this. Staying positive throughout the whole process and get a good grasp of these interviews and just trying to kill those.”
Ruckert has enjoyed sitting down with NFL coaches and scouts and having the opportunity to both learn from them and sell himself, which he’s trying to do in an authentic way.
“It’s cool because you’re talking about yourself. No matter what anybody says, you like talking about yourself,” Ruckert said. “I’m proud of where I came from, I’m proud of my family life, I’m proud of my journey at Ohio State, I’m proud of who I’ve become as a football player and as a person and just being able to talk about that. And the biggest thing with these interviews is you’re learning stuff, too. You’re learning from some of the best coaches in the world at what they do. You’re learning football, you’re learning life lessons.
“I’m just trying to soak all that in and just be myself. I don’t want to put on an act because then once you get there, it might not be the best fit, so just show them who I am and show them that when I get in the locker room, what I’m going to be like.”
Ruckert is trying to keep himself grounded throughout the draft process, knowing how fortunate he is to be on the verge of playing in the NFL. He’s been projected in various mock drafts to be selected as early as the second round or as late as the fourth round, but he says he’s not worrying too much about where he gets selected.
“I’m not trying to get caught up in when I get picked or where I end up,” Ruckert said. “The biggest thing for me is whatever team picks me, they’re picking me for a reason. I’m going to just try and go there and give them everything I have. The biggest thing for me as a rookie is to just try to gain the trust and confidence of my teammates first and then the coaching staff. And from there, just be myself and take off from there. But the biggest thing for me is to be grateful. No matter where I go, anybody would trade to be where I am right now.”
Just to be going through the draft process is a dream come true in itself, Ruckert said.
“It's like all your hard work is being paid off,” Ruckert said. “Getting to talk to all the coaches, being able to compete with the best guys and talk to the best players.”
And even though he didn’t have a ton of passes thrown his way at Ohio State, where he caught 54 passes for 615 yards and 12 touchdowns over four seasons, he made it clear on Wednesday that he has no regrets about playing for the Buckeyes, as he believes that experience made him a more complete football player and prepared him for the challenges he’ll now face in the NFL.
“All the jobs that you do at Ohio State as a tight end, you're doing everything,” Ruckert said. “You're flexing out, you're in line, you're in the backfield moving around and I think being able to do that in college at such a high level, playing in big-time games, big-time practices during the week, I'm proud of that, and I think that's truly made me who I am, why I’m here today.”