Rucci receives full-ride offer from Michigan State

By on February 15, 2017

 

Warwick sophomore Hayden Rucci (center) is shown on the field at Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium with MSU co-offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Jim Bollman (left) and offensive line coach Mark Staten (right) during his visit to East Lansing, Mich. last weekend.

Warwick sophomore Hayden Rucci (center) is shown on the field at
Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium with MSU co-offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Jim Bollman (left) and offensive line coach Mark Staten (right) during his visit to East Lansing, Mich. last weekend.Hayden Rucci loved what he saw on his tour of the Michigan State football facilities last Saturday in East Lansing, Mich.

Still, the Warwick High School sophomore had no idea what was coming next.

Sitting in the office of Spartans’ co-offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Jim Bollman, Rucci a tight end and defensive end/outside linebacker for the Warriors, received a full-ride offer.

Shock was the operative word to describe how not only Hayden was feeling, but also his parents, Todd and Stacy, and brother, Nolan.

“I didn’t expect it whatsoever,” Hayden said. “I just thought I was going to Michigan State, just on a visit, just checking out everything and then … bombshell, honestly. I was happy.”

Admittedly, it didn’t sink in right away.

In fact, it wasn’t until later that night, at the end of the Michigan State men’s basketball team’s 77-66 win over Iowa that the offer seemed real.

Walking across the floor and through a tunnel at the Breslin Center with the Ruccis, MSU offensive line coach Mark Staten stopped Spartan hoops coach Tom Izzo on his way into the locker room.

“Mark pulls him aside,” Stacy recalls, “and says, ‘Coach, I want you to meet our newest recruit. We just offered him a full-ride, Hayden Rucci.’”

That’s when things really hit Hayden.

“When (coach Staten) said that, it was like, ‘The dream is real,’” he said. “Just crazy. I didn’t think I’d ever hear those words at all, if not this soon either.”

Yes, indeed, Hayden and his family are remaining down to earth, knowing the process is in its early stages. In the next few weeks, they are headed to Duke and Boston College. The University of Pitt is also on the radar.

Hayden’s parents played field hockey and football at Penn State, and when asked if he’d like to follow in their footsteps and play for the Nittany Lions, he said, “Anyone that’s interested in me, I’m going to visit and see what it’s like and then I’ll make my judgment based off of that.”

Even just to get where other schools are showing interest in Hayden, the Ruccis give a lot of credit to the Warwick seniors in this year’s class.

“I honestly feel like Hayden wouldn’t have gotten to this point if it weren’t for his senior teammates,” Stacy said. “It wasn’t just the fact that they had a great season. I think it was more the fact that they were such great leaders and mentors and the seniors, and the other upperclassmen, made Hayden and the other underclassmen feel right at home with them. Not every senior class is going to let first-year kids come in and not only welcome them, but actually give them the confidence to play with 100 percent effort. I know this senior class made a concerted effort to be all-in and all-inclusive and I feel that it helped Hayden tremendously in his growth. I want them know that it did not go unnoticed and that they paved the way for future leaders on the team to hopefully flourish in the years to come.”

Regarding his future in football, Hayden is keeping an open mind. He had no idea if he’d even be able to play in college.

NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from talking to players at this point in their high school career, but the Ruccis were able to get on a list for one of the Spartans’ recruiting days for an unofficial visit.

“You just go show up and hopefully you get to talk to your coach,” Todd said.

“I was just going to see what it was like,” Hayden added.

The tour included a stop at Spartan Stadium, the training room, locker room and the rest of Michigan State’s football facilities.

Although MSU’s 11th-year head coach Mark Dantonio wasn’t there &tstr; he was at a Nike Summit &tstr; the rest of his staff was. And they left a very strong impression on Hayden.

“I thought (Michigan State) was awesome,” he said. “The facilities were really nice, I love the field, and the biggest part of it was the coaches, how much they love their players, their relationships with each other. They all have a really tight bond and have a lot of chemistry &tstr; they’ve been there with each other for awhile, which I liked a lot.”

Eventually, of course, the Ruccis found themselves in Bollman’s office. And then the bombshell came.

The first thing out of Bollman’s mouth was the full-ride tender. Second was that the Spartans don’t rescind their offers.

“I was just going there to look at the school, maybe talk to coaches, and it’s the last thing I expected,” Hayden said.

Michigan State, though, has video highlights of Hayden on Hudl, including from his sophomore season with the Warriors, when he had 9 receptions for 108 yards and a TD playing tight end, in addition to 58 tackle points, a sack and an INT at defensive end and outside linebacker.

His size is also a plus, being listed at 6-foot-4, 209 pounds on Warwick’s 2016 roster.

Plus, Staten and Harlon Barnett (co-defensive coordinator) were former teammates of Todd with the NFL’s New England Patriots, so they were aware of the Rucci pedigree.

“Mark told me on Saturday that he’d taken a peak at Hayden and wanted to check him out,” Todd said, “so I definitely think that played into it. He was watching Hayden through film and wanted to take a look at him and put eyes on him, and also for Hayden to check out the campus and see if that was something that he would like and be interested in.”

There was no doubt that Hayden did.

And his hopes seem to be right on track.

“Just play football in college (is my dream),” he said. “I’d go anywhere.”

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