Former Trojan Rucker turned tragedy into triumph
The plans we have for the future can change in an instant. Turmoil can strike at any time and turn our best laid plans into distant memories. Turning a tragedy into a triumph can be a long and grueling process but can, in the end, take us on a journey that we never could have imagined.
That is what happened to former Morristown West running back Charles Rucker. Rucker was a member of the Trojans team that advanced to the state title game in 2003. He carried on the family football tradition at West as he wore his father Adrian’s No. 2 jersey while performing on the gridiron for the Trojans.
His outstanding senior season caught the attention of college coaches and he had the chance to continue his playing career at the next level. Rucker earned a scholarship to play running back at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky. Life seemed to be going great.
But all that changed in a split second. On October 21, 2005, during his sophomore season, Rucker was heading back to Morristown from Williamsburg to see his mom when a freak accident took place. “A car slid in front of me on the interstate and we slid into the median and then into oncoming traffic,” Rucker recalled of the day that would change his life forever.
Rucker hit a tractor trailer head on and suffered serious injuries to his face and hands in the accident which took over a year to recover from. “I broke my jaw and my teeth and it is the grace of God that I am even alive. I thank Him every day for letting me survive.
“I had to have multiple surgeries on my face and hands,” Rucker recalled of the accident. “They told me that I would not be able to play football after that. I moved back home to Morristown for probably at least a year before I fully recovered.”
Because he could not be cleared to play college ball due to the concussion he suffered during the accident, Rucker was faced with the prospect of what to do next. Eventually, he earned the chance to return to the football field one last time. Doctors told Rucker his football career was over but he was undeterred and eventually worked his way onto the Storm, an arena team that had come to Nashville.He was a member of the Storm team that won the national title in 2010. He completed his education and started working for Gold’s Gym.
Little did Rucker know that the opportunity would be more than just a place to draw a pay check but rather a place to build a new future.
The Morristown native started competing in National Physique Competition, or NPC which is a form of body building. Rucker’s first competition was at the Music City Muscle event in Nashville and was very successful as he won his initial event. “I won my first show and from there, I went to Kentucky and qualified for the national tournament. I will compete there at the beginning of November to get my pro card so I can turn pro,” Rucker said.
“The biggest difference with what I do and regular body building events is it is more fitness modeling,” Rucker said as he explained exactly what NPC is. He has worked his way up through the sport and is receiving national attention now. “There are a lot of photo shoots and I was selected to appear in a fitness magazine and had an appearance in the TV show ‘Nashville’.”
Rucker has also enjoyed advancement in his regular career as he is now the regional manager for Gold’s Gym which incorporates the entire state of Tennessee. His job allows him to train for competition and that training is nothing short of brutal.
Preparing for fitness modeling is extremely intense and it starts with a very regimented diet that can start 12 weeks before an event. “My diet is really strict. Right now, I have fish seven to eight times a day. It’s a very disciplined diet because I want to be as lean as possible without losing muscle.”
“I have a coach that does my diet, one that trains me in boxing and one that does strength and condition. It can be anywhere from an eight week to a 12 week process,” Rucker stated.
Rucker has secured a sponsor in his attempt to turn pro as Nutrishop will assist him in his march up the sport’s latter. Turning pro is the ultimate goal for Rucker, who now resides in Murfreesboro with his wife Ashley who is a MMA fighter.
“Once you get your pro card, there are more opportunities that open up. Hopefully when I turn pro, I will get more sponsorships because I will be on a bigger level competing and that means more money when you win. I’ve already qualified for nationals next year so I will probably do more shows,” Rucker said.
One of the passions Rucker has is inspiring young people with his story. He has worked with the football teams at Siegel and Blackman as well as the cheerleaders at Riverdale and at MTSU, putting the Blue Raider spirit squad through what he called a fitness boot camp. “I just want to get my story out there. I want people to know they can recover from adversity.”
Charles Rucker has turned adversity to his advantage and as he pursues his goal of turning pro, he does so with the knowledge that the same intensity and determination that brought him back from a near fatal car accident is the driving force on his way to the top of his sport.
-By Marlin Curnutt, Tribune Correspondent