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Troy vs. Nebraska, 9/15/18

Former Husker Mike Rucker is introduced before the game against Troy on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Wide receivers dream of making the game-winning catch. Quarterbacks dream of throwing them.

Mike Rucker grew up dreaming to make the game-winning stuff.

You know where we’re going with this, right?

Sold-out Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City. Barbecue. Nebraska. Oklahoma State. Cloudy day.

Trailing 27-24 in 1998, the unranked Cowboys had the ball on the Nebraska 1-yard line with only seconds remaining. The call: running back Nathan Simmons up the gut.

Popping through was Rucker, who blew up the play and dropped Simmons, helping the Huskers survive in Year 1 of Frank Solich.

“That felt like it was a home game for us since it was at Arrowhead,” said Rucker, who grew up just north of Kansas City in St. Joseph, Missouri. “I just remember it was a goal-line stand. Either we were going to win or we were going to lose, and I was just fortunate enough to shoot through that gap and make that tackle.”

Rucker was part of two national championship teams at Nebraska. That moment in Kansas City — in front of a lot friends and family — is right up there, too.

It was plays like that tackle that led Rucker back to Lincoln this weekend. He was among six inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame, joining ex-Huskers Kyle Larson, Bob Sledge and Dan Schmidt; and two former Chadron State Eagles in Danny Woodhead and Casey Beran.

The group was honored before kickoff of Saturday’s Nebraska-Troy game.

“It’s really a true honor,” said Rucker, as he stood on the field where he recorded many of his 136 career tackles. “The guys that have been in it, some great names. To my guys that I went in with, I call them my brothers. Even though we didn’t play together, we played this game, we loved this game in this state.”

Rucker, who went on to play a long NFL career with the Carolina Panthers, learned of his induction after picking up the mail at his Charlotte home a few months ago.

“I just had to sit down and kind of read that,” he said. “I sat there and just thought, 'Wow.' It’s just a true honor. There’s a lot of guys out there that are deserving to be in there.”

Rucker was last in Lincoln for last year’s reunion of 1997 players. He watched as Nebraska’s defense was gashed by Wisconsin and a week later Ohio State.

Rucker played with Scott Frost at Nebraska. He recalls Frost’s toughness while running the scout team.

“He took his licks,” Rucker said. “He wasn’t complaining, he got back up, but I think that was the mentality he had.”

As for seeing his former teammate running the show in Lincoln. …

“It’s always good to see a fellow brother at the helm,” Rucker said. “I just love his heart and his attitude. That you can’t teach. You can teach the X's and O's, but his heart and how he has assembled his staff — I always say some old school and some new school — and letting guys have a voice.

“I really believe the future is going to be bright.”

Going deep

* Woodhead, who recently retired from the NFL, was decked out in Husker gear Saturday.

"It's definitely cool," Woodhead said of entering the Hall of Fame alongside some Husker greats. "I've never really thought about getting awards like this, it's really never been my goal. More than anything, it showed that I had really good teammates that made it possible for me to get here."

* It was quite toasty Saturday, wasn’t it? The field temperature at kickoff was 110 degrees.

Photos from Saturday's Nebraska-Troy game

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.


Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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