A few words with… Martin Rucker

Tight end Martin Rucker, a surprise starter in the season opener against Arkansas State on Saturday, proved he deserved the spot when he scored the team's first touchdown of 2004. InsideMizzou spoke with Rucker about his feelings entering his first start and the potential of Missouri's tight ends.

The Ruckers know pressure.

Missouri freshman TE Martin Rucker's old brother, Mike, brings pressure to opposing quarterbacks every Sunday with the NFL's Carolina Panthers. After going through the experience of Big 12 Conference competition and earning All-American status, Mike Rucker went on to shine in the professional ranks.

If Sunday's effort is any indication, Martin Rucker might be heading the same way. Rucker surpassed senior Victor Sesay on the post-training camp depth chart and started in the season opener against Arkansas State. He made just one catch for 24 yards (compared to four grabs and 80 yards for Sesay), but that one grab was a big one: it put the Tigers ahead for good early in the first quarter.

Rucker maintained his top spot on the depth chart this week. InsideMizzou talked with Rucker about the feelings of playing in his first collegiate game and the damage he and Sesay could do together.

On walking on to Faurot Field for the first time as a starter: "I was really excited, just going out there on the field and seeing all those people out there. It was kind of like last year (his redshirt year) when we ran out there. But this was totally new, since I was playing. It was just incredible. But when I scored the touchdown…"

His first thought when he scored the touchdown: "All the stuff that I've been working for since January has paid off."

On if he was nervous as he approached his first game: "Not really. I thought I would be, but I didn't really have time. We came out and there's only three minutes we're on the field before kickoff, so as soon as kick-off happened, it was time to go. I didn't have any time to be nervous."

On his attitude entering training camp: "I was making plays every day. Every day, I just came to practice to practice, not just to get through it. I was just trying to get better every day and it showed."

On the shoulder injury that limited him in the spring: "That was a real big set-back. I came in so far down in the depth I figured it was going to be very hard to get on the field, let alone be a starter. It worked out. I thought I could (start), but I knew it was going to be a long shot."

On having two talented tight ends in the game at once: "When one of us starts doing good, it kind of takes the focus off the other one, so then he starts making big plays. When you get tight ends that can stretch the field like that, I think it opens up the offense."

On the blocking duties of the tight end: "It's kind of early in the season, but I thought it was going to be a little tougher out on the field, going through game situations. Once I got out there, it was just kind of like me against the next man, and ‘Which man is going to win?' It's just playing football."

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