Rucker Brings Connections to Browns

The Browns expect TE Martin Rucker to give opponents fits as a bookend to Kellen Winslow, Jr. As the player who broke Winslow Sr.'s records at Missouri, Rucker is up to the challenge.

BEREA - Phil Savage kept Dallas owner Jerry Jones on speed dial to pull off the fourth trade between the two teams since last year's draft to draft tight end Martin Rucker from Missouri in the fourth round. 

The Browns traded next year's third-round choice to draft Rucker with the 111th pick overall, in the fourth round.

"(Dallas) knows we're willing to make a trade and you can cut to the chase more quickly with them than some other teams," Savage said.

Rucker (6-4.5, 247 pounds) will come in and compete with Kellen Winslow, Jr. as one of the Browns' tight ends. Rucker spent the past four seasons chasing Kellen Winslow, Sr's records at Missouri.

Rucker caught 203 passes for 2,175 yards in his career with 18 touchdowns. His 84 catches shattered the old Missouri season-record for tight ends, topping the previous record of 55 receptions by A.J. Ofodile in 1993.

He was All-American first team selection by The NFL Draft Report, Associated Press, Football Writers Association, American Football Coaches Association and CBS last season.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for me," Rucker said. "(Kellen Winslow Sr.'s name came up a lot more when I started breaking his records."

In the present, he will be competing with Kellen Winslow, Jr. and Steve Heiden.

"But to be able to compete with two guys of their caliber is amazing," Rucker said. "I followed (Winslow, Jr.) a lot more when he was in college. He's definitely a tough guy to cover and a tough guy in general. "

Rucker is known as a pass receiver, but said he can block, if called upon.

"I'm definitely up to that challenge," he said. "That's what I'm here for. Kellen Winslow is better than a lot, but that's what I'm eager to prove to do. "

Savage said Rucker was one of the players the Browns had targeted in the fall on offense, when they still had a second-round pick.

"We felt we wanted to upgrade our tight end position and I envisioned Martin Rucker going opposite of Kellen Winslow, which would pose problems for the opposition," Savage said. "We felt it wasn't as much of a need pick, but a value pick.

"Rucker is a tall, receiving type tight end, who will probably get better as a blocker."

Both Winslow, Jr. and  Heiden are coming off surgeries, but Savage said he expects both players will be ready for training camp.

"We really like Martin Rucker, but (the injuries) really is in the back drop," Savage said. "We envision both Martin and Kellen running down the seams. We took the best available player with Rucker. It might not be a need today, but it might be down the road."

Rucker is also the younger brother of former Panthers' Pro Bowl defensive end Mike Rucker. Mike has just recently retired from the NFL.

"It would have been nice to play together, but he told me my foot was in the door and now it's my turn to play."

Rucker is very confident of his future in the NFL and thinks he can follow in his brother's steps to the Pro Bowl. He has patterned his game after Winslow, Tony Gonzales and Antonio Gates.

"I see Pro Bowls in the future and am eager to keep that in the family tradition."

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