An American Honor

Although he is working on narrowing a scholarship list of over a dozen offers, Robbinsdale Cooper (MN) safety Malik Rucker has a more important thing on his plate - representing Team USA in IFAF Under-19 World Championship. in June.

MADISON - The cell phone for Robbinsdale Cooper (MN) junior safety Malik Rucker has been ringing constantly with him taking a lot of impactful calls from college coaches and recruiters. As special as those conversations have been, the one Rucker received – asking him to represent his country – meant that much more.

Rucker is one of high school players selected to participate in the International Federation of American Football Under-19 World Championship beginning June 22 in Austin, Texas.

"It's just a blessing to be able to play for your country and to go out and hopefully compete and win for your country," Rucker told Badger Nation. "It's amazing to be able to go to Texas for that. It's an once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I can't wait to go down there, play with the guys and hopefully win a gold medal.

Teams from American Samoa, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Panama, Sweden and the United States kick off the tournament with a slate of four games June 30 and conclude July 7.

"We will be playing college rules, so I'll be able to learn those and I'll be able to get some different styles of coaching," said Rucker, as USA will be coached by Cincinnati St. Xavier coach Steve Sprecht. "I'll be able to play against some different style of players and practice against some of the top players in the country. I'll be able to get some good work in and some good knowledge in. That's going to help benefit me as a player."

His lengthy stay in Austin will be just another chapter in what has been a busy travel schedule for Rucker – a three-star player ranked the No.50 safety in the country by Since February, Rucker (6-0, 175 pounds) has been to Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Rucker has also lost track on the amount of coaches that have stopped by his school during the spring evaluation period, but says Penn State, Pittsburgh, Tulsa, UCLA and Wisconsin are coaches that have visited his school recently.

Rucker visited Wisconsin in February for the school's junior day and has been in contact with secondary coach Ben Strickland, defensive coach Chris Ash by email and offensive line coach Mike Markuson recently stopped by his school.

"Coach Markuson and I have an OK relationship, but it could be better," said Rucker. "We don't talk as much as some other schools. I am still interested in Wisconsin, but I don't know if they will offer anymore."

Rucker claims BCS offers from Arizona State, Boston College, Duke, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota and North Carolina State, but has not trimmed his offer list. He also likely won't go to many, if any, camps this season due to his Team USA obligations.

The Gophers have put a high emphasis on Rucker, who attends high school 10 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, and have created posters and puzzles of him wearing maroon and gold. It's a unique recruiting tool, but Rucker said that the Gophers are one of many schools in the mix.

"I think Minnesota is recruiting me hard, but I think there are some other schools that are recruiting me just as hard," said Rucker.

As a junior, Rucker registered 52 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and two interceptions, earning himself an all-conference selection. Rucker's dad, Charles, and brother, Xavier, played for Nebraska.

Rucker reports a top 40-yard dash time of 4.48 seconds. He also runs track for Cooper. He said his top times were 10.8 in the 100, 22.0 in the 200 and 50.0 in the 400.

"Right now I am going with the flow, but I am hoping to get a top group done soon," said Rucker. "Hopefully in the next couple weeks I'll know my top list."

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