Brunswick senior defensive back Chris Rucker hopes to make a living at the sport he loves, competing in front of thousands of fans in packed stadiums on Sunday afternoons. But it won't be on a football field.
"If I could pick, I'd rather be a professional motocross rider than play in the NFL," Rucker said. "Nothing compares to the feeling I get racing."
So while other cornerbacks want to follow in the footsteps of the Baltimore Ravens' Ed Reed or the Washington Redskins' Shawn Springs, the 6-foot-3, 165-pound Rucker envisions himself riding his 125cc motorcycle to the kind of stardom afforded Ricky Carmichael and Annapolis's Travis Pastrana, his idols.
Rucker, 17, began racing at 31/2 years old, when his uncle bought him his first motorcycle. He now travels to races nearly every weekend outside the football season and has earned more than 40 trophies. But his body has paid a price.
He missed his freshman football season after tearing every ligament in his left knee during a race when he stuck his foot in the ground for balance while driving 40 mph.
"I don't like him riding, but we're a small school and we're only going to have 32 players on our team and the kid's a great athlete," Brunswick Coach Kevin Lynott said. "He knows he has a bunch of guys counting on him during the season. But you can tell as our season nears an end, he gets really pumped to go racing."
Rucker almost missed this season after a nasty wipeout in a July race in Pennsylvania left him with a dislocated shoulder and fractured shoulder blade.
"I'll be fine for the season, and that's all that matters," said Rucker, who recorded 39 tackles and two interceptions last fall. "Some people think you have to be crazy to do what I do. But I like the fear factor involved. I like going really fast and going off jumps where I'm 50 feet in the air. After doing that, I don't worry about what will happen if I throw myself at a running back to tackle him."