Rucci selected for Big 33 Classic

By on February 6, 2019
Warwick senior Hayden Rucci (center), shown with his parents Stacy and Todd, has been selected to play in the 62nd annual Big 33 Classic. Todd, an Upper Darby grad, also played in the game in 1988.

Warwick senior Hayden Rucci (center), shown with his parents Stacy and Todd, has been selected to play in the 62nd annual Big 33 Classic. Todd, an Upper Darby grad, also played in the game in 1988.

New England Patriots’ back-up QB Brian Hoyer not only won a ring in Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII.

He also kept a streak alive.

Never has there been a Super Bowl without at least one former player who competed in the annual Big 33 All-Star Classic.

Hoyer, a graduate of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, led Ohio to a 34-30 win over Pennsylvania in 2004 at Hersheypark Stadium.

And now, just 15 years later, Warwick will have bragging rights to a player competing in the Big 33.

Senior Hayden Rucci, an All-USA Pennsylvania First-Team tight end and a Pennsylvania Football Writers’ 5A All-State selection, learned last Thursday that he was named to the PA roster. The list of players was released by the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association.

“I can’t really put it into words,” said Rucci, a University of Wisconsin-recruit. “It’s pretty cool.”

Making it even more special is the fact that his father, Todd, played in the game in 1988, prior to going onto a career at Penn State University and then with the Patriots.

“To be chosen 30 years later, it means a lot to me and to my family too,” Hayden said. “It’s a pretty special moment.”

“It’s a little bit humbling, first of all that I’m that old and that my kid is playing in (the Big 33),” said Todd, who graduated from Upper Darby High School, “but it’s exciting. I think I’m just excited for Hayden to have that opportunity to play and represent not only Warwick, but the state of Pennsylvania. It’s a great experience for him and just a nice way to cap off his high school career before he starts that new journey.”

Hayden will join rare company as only the second player in Warwick’s history to be chosen for the Big 33. John Male was the first Warrior to receive that honor back in 1968.

“Growing up, you always hear that name,” Hayden said. “It’s an awesome honor. I’m really grateful for it and humbled I get to be in that class with him.”

The 62nd annual edition of the Big 33 will be held on Memorial Day, May 27 with a 2 p.m. kickoff at Central Dauphin Middle School’s Landis Field in Harrisburg.

That’s music to Hayden’s ears.

A year ago, the game was played on June 16, with Maryland edging Pennsylvania 9-6.

If the date had remained in mid-June, Hayden would have been unable to play because he leaves for Wisconsin no later than Saturday, June 15.

“Thankfully, they bumped it up,” Rucci said. “I can’t wait to play in the game. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to just prove my talents one more time in Pennsylvania before I get to the next level.”

In his senior season at Warwick, Rucci finished with 30 receptions for 646 yards (21.5 avg) and 8 TDs, catching passes from quarterbacks Adam Ricketts and Joey McCracken.

In the Big 33 Classic, it will be Central York’s Cade Pribula and Harrisburg’s Kane Everson dropping back in the pocket. Pribula will be a teammate of Warwick’s Nick Coomer at the University of Delaware, while Everson is headed to The College of William & Mary

“It will be pretty cool to catch the ball from those guys,” said the 6-foot-5, 237-pound Rucci, who ended his Warwick career with 58 receptions for 1,130 yards and 12 TDs. “There’s a bunch of guys on the team who I’m looking forward to meeting and competing with.”

The Big 33 game itself will only be part of the experience for Hayden and his teammates. Since Todd played in the game, community and charitable events have been added for the players’ itinerary leading up to the Classic.

“I’ve known (my dad’s) stories from it and it just sounds like an awesome experience,” Hayden said. “The game has changed to today’s time, so I’m excited to see what it’s all about and what they have in store.”

“I’m not sure we had all those (community) opportunities when I played and now just seeing the charitable side of the Big 33 and what they’re doing with the buddy system,” Todd said, “that’s just such a great idea and a great way, I think, for the kids to connect with the community.”

Central Valley’s Mark Lyons’ will be the head coach of the Pennsylvania squad which will look to win for the fourth time in five years.

“I think Hayden realizes how fortunate he is,” Todd said, “and we absolutely do with the opportunities he has had in front of him and just making sure he’s making the best of everything. So I think he appreciates where he is and I think he also is looking forward to the path he has ahead of him.”

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