Draft weekend didn't go as well as former Memphis wide receiver Marcus Rucker had hoped but the 6-4, 185-pound pass catcher still found himself in a Bears uniform last Friday morning.
"Draft weekend wasn't fun," Rucker said after rookie minicamp practice today. "It wasn't as if I were sitting there by the phone for the entire time but I did have hope that somebody would contact me.
"Actually, the Bears did call early during the second round indicating that I might be a late-round pick. When the time came though, they didn't do that. I was definitely disappointed but my phone did ring right after the draft and I was signed by the team shortly thereafter as an undrafted free agent."
Rucker was one of 10 UDFAs to join the Bears once the draft concluded. The Memphis native started 44 games for the Tigers during his collegiate career, notching 126 receptions, 14 touchdowns and 1,665 total yards. He had two 100-plus yard games and to go along with a 13.5-yard receiving average his senior season, which earned him a trip to the Casino del Sol Football Classic.
"I hope that the Bears feel I can contribute in a positive way to this team," Rucker said. "I think my speed is good. I have good hands. I can run good routes. I'm very agile for my size and can grab the ball in space. I work well with quarterbacks and can adjust my play as they require."
But Rucker has no illusions that his path to Chicago's final 53-man roster will be easy.
"Looking around here today, I feel like a college freshman all over again," he said. "Even though I have the security of that signing, there are a lot of very talented players out here this weekend. It tells me about the type of competition I'll be up against in the very near future."
Coach Marc Trestman said he plans to take 11 wide receivers to training camp.
"That's good information. It means that competition for this position will be tough," Rucker said. "Training camp is something I am definitely looking forward to although I've heard that it's very taxing physically. I think what we've all been through this weekend indicates how difficult it can get."
Rucker said it's his goal to learn from of the veteran players in upcoming OTAs and training camp.
"I've done some research on this" he said. "It seems to me that the rookies who succeed are the ones who are mentored right at the beginning of training camp by a veteran player. There's no doubt those guys know how the system works. A veteran can teach me what the NFL is like and can help me improve my skills. The Bears have some great players on the roster and I'd be honored if any of them would assist me."
For now Rucker, along with the rest of the non-draft picks, will have to wait to find out if they'll be with the team going forward. Rucker said all he can do is work on improving his craft, without worrying about what the coaches are thinking.
"It's all up tempo all of the time" Rucker said. "I need to adjust my speed, get in my formations and it will all be good. My routes can be better; my spacing can improve. Those are the things I'm working on right now so I can compete. I'm looking forward to stepping up and stepping in as more things progress."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.