Like many of the football players he coaches at Ohio Wesleyan, Keith Rucker is working a summer internship.
The big difference is that Rucker, the Battling Bishops’ defensive line coach and special teams coordinator, is interning with the New York Jets of the National Football League.
Rucker, who played in the NFL for seven seasons, is with the Jets as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship, a program that allows minority coaches to gain experience by working for NFL teams’ training camps, minicamps, and offseason programs. He has been assisting Jets defensive line coach Karl Dunbar.
“I’m doing what he’s doing,” Rucker said. “We split the groups up and work on each day’s points of emphasis, do nine-on-sevens, and line drills.”
In addition to the daily practice, Rucker has film sessions with the coaching staff, then film sessions with the players. Later in the day, the team will have a walkthrough at the stadium, going over areas that need work. After dinner, there are meetings with the new players.
Rucker had to go through a rigorous application process, part of which included making a 20-minute video that included him coaching, a voice-over of games, and practice footage. Once he got the application completed, the Jets reached out to him.
“There are about 20 coaches on staff here, and I have something in common with 15 of them,” Rucker said. “I played either with them, against them, or for them.”
That doesn’t count Rucker’s indirect connection with Jets head coach Rex Ryan. As a rookie with the Cardinals in 1992, Rucker won a starting spot for Rex’s father, Buddy Ryan, on the defensive line.
“It’s a great honor for Keith to be selected for this program,” said Ohio Wesleyan head coach Tom Watts. “Only a few guys get the opportunity to do this. This a great chance for him to learn and bring back new thoughts and ideas for our program and better educate our student-athletes. He’s having a great time and learning a lot.”
“I’m grateful to coach Watts and the rest of the Ohio Wesleyan staff for allowing me to do this,” Rucker said. “He brought it to my attention, and I was able to come and get better as a football coach.
“I’ve picked up tons (of things). I’m learning everything (Dunbar) teaches guys as he’s teaching, and a lot of stuff he teaches, I’ll be able to use with my guys (at Ohio Wesleyan).”
Ohio Wesleyan kicks off the 2014 season on Sept. 6 at Bluffton.