Rucker will reach for the stars as a Husker

Size matters? Yeah, of course it does. But not quite the way you think. You think you have to be 6-4 to be a receiver in the NFL? Tell that to Steve Smith. You think you have to be over six foot to be a playmaker at the professional level? Tell that to Dante Hall. Those are the players who flat out show you that size isn't all it's cracked up to be. Well, there's a future Husker in Xavier Rucker who says he's going to show you the same thing.

At 5 foot, 7 inches tall, Minnesota native Xavier Rucker has heard everything about why he can't do something. He can't play at college, because he's too short. He can't even think of the professional league, because he's too small. He can't do anything that he knows he can and he has role models to prove it.

Dante Hall, one of the best return men in the NFL and a potent wide receiver

He's 5-8

Steve Smith, one of the best all around wideouts the league has right now

He's 5-9

Deion Branch, Peter Warrick, Antwaan Randle El, Bobby Engram, Willie Parker and Kevin Faulk – none are even six foot and all rank as some of the best receivers in the entire league.

But Xavier Rucker is too small?

"That's all I have been hearing for as long as I can remember, but what's funny about that, is that they never say that when they see my film," Xavier said. "They call me on the phone, say I am one of the best and it's only when they see me in person, that's when I am suddenly too small."

Rucker got that a lot after his sophomore year, the talented Breck high school receiver totaling over 1,000 yards on 61 receptions, 12 of those going in for a score. It was after that year when the calls started coming, the letters started filling up the box and Rucker figured he was finally getting his due.

But he quickly got accustomed to the same old song and dance as he would take the visit, the coaches would see him and there ya go, that's it "Son, you are just too small."

His dad had to feel for his son, Charles Rucker, formerly a Nebraska Cornhusker during the early eighties, the time where the Nebraska offense was almost unstoppable. Charles looked at his son, watched him on the field and he knew what Xavier could do.

But as he would tell you, everyone knew it, because it was hearing it all of the time. "We'd go to combines and I'd say just put him on the best DB there and you'd see what he could do," Charles said. "Xavier always did well, shut a lot of those guys down, but they would all still same the same thing in the end."

"He doesn't have the size, he isn't big enough this or something else, because everyone wants that guy over six foot, who can run a 4.4. They got this idea of what they think they want, but you watch Xavier play, THAT is what you want."

Xavier stopped worrying about what others thought about his size long ago. While other players were given credit simply from their height and frame, young Rucker was having to get attention the old fashioned way. That's good, though, because where Xavier stands right now, he knows he's got something most of those prototypically correct players don't have.

"I know what I can do, but I know that I have to show it on the field, so that's what I have done my whole career," he said. "They said I couldn't handle guys at the line and I learned how to beat them with my quickness and my hands. They said I couldn't create separation, but I'm fast enough and it's not easy to cover me. They say all this stuff, but I know if I have the heart, if I have the desire and if I give everything I have to doing this one thing, you can't stop me from getting where I want to go."

For most of his life, he's used those role models from the professional ranks as inspiration to get there as well. But along the way he knew he would have to do at the collegiate level what he's done at the prep ranks the way he has.

But it came down to that size issue, and when guys that couldn't put up near the numbers were getting all the offers, he was getting nothing but "If he was only two inches taller, we'd offer him right now."

That led him eventually to Nebraska, where he took a trip this last weekend, checking out not just the school where his dad used to play, but to the one school that didn't look at him and scoff. When everyone else was telling him what he couldn't do, Xavier said that it was Nebraska, who said they wanted him to walk on and show him what he could.

"I wanted the offer, but nobody was coming and Nebraska was the only school that said they wanted to give me a chance," Rucker said. "And that's all I wanted from anyone. I know what I can do and I know I'll earn a scholarship, so I knew Nebraska was where I was going to play."

Despite the obvious opportunity, the message Xavier has heard most of his life, will follow him to Lincoln. Going against players like Nathan Swift, Todd Peterson and incoming players like Maurice Purify, Menelik Holt and Will Henry – all of them 6 foot 3 inches tall or better, Rucker knows exactly what he's going to hear.

He knows that he'll stand beside these guys and everyone looking at him will say that he's too small, but it's great that the son of a former Husker is going to give it his best at Nebraska.

Save it. Rucker doesn't want to hear it. He's heard it plenty already and he's gotten used to proving people wrong. He knows this is just another group, which will discount him entirely, but when the dust settles, it's him that will be standing on top.

"I promise you that if I get a fair shake compared to everyone else, I'll have a scholarship in the first two months I am at Nebraska," Xavier exclaimed. "They said I have an opportunity for it and I have learned that you don't wait for the opportunities, you take them."

Rucker knows it won't be easy, but when he arrives in the summer, he's already well aware of what he has to do to make sure that he's good to his word. And if his size wasn't bad enough, his status as a non-scholarship athlete is just another mental barrier he'll have to overcome.

"When you are a walk on, you have to be perfect, so I know I can't drop a ball, not one," he said. "I have to run my routes clean, make all the catches and beat whoever is covering me at the time."

"It's not easy and it won't be, but I'm used to that. It wouldn't be worth getting if it was easy."

For each kid growing up, there's that part of them that wants to be a star. Whether it's athletics, entertainment or something else, they all want to do something that matters. And everyone will tell you as you are growing up, it's important to reach for the stars.

What separates many are those that do and those that don't, those that can and those that aren't willing to do what it takes to finish the job they started. Xavier falls definitely in the former for both. He's been reaching for the stars since he was young and today isn't any different.

Don't tell him he can't do it, though, just because he has to reach a little higher than most.


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