New York is not known as an active recruiting ground for high-level football players, with most of the shining stars in the country coming from the Sun Belt. The last five-star recruit from New York used to be Thomas Holley, a Brooklyn-native that was recruited to the University of Florida in 2014. That changed with Long Island’s own Jeremy Ruckert in 2018.
“I remember going out at halftime during [New York] Jets games with my little brother and we would just play out in the street with my Dad,” said Ruckert. “We would have a catch and think of different games. That’s the earliest memory I have [with football].”
Ruckert grew up and went to school in Lindenhurst. Since he was little, he had a love for the gridiron sport. In middle school, he and his friends played in the little leagues. Then came his chance to shine at Lindenhurst High School for the Bulldogs.
“It was awesome because I played there and my dad played there when he was younger,” said Ruckert. “A lot of my coaches there were actually on some of his teams when he was in high school so it was pretty cool playing for my home town and having them rallying behind us.”
Ruckert was a hybrid player for the Bulldogs, but he was mainly a wide receiver while taking on roles in the running game and on defense. He compiled 2,460 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns in three seasons on the team. He was key in Lindenhurst’s first ever Long Island championship, beating Oceanside 40-23 in 2017.
The star athlete played various other sports as well. He played on the varsity baseball and basketball teams, as well as soccer until his sophomore year. However, his heart was in football and he knew he wanted to pursue it beyond Lindenhurst.
“I knew it was going to be something I wanted to continue with and practice at,” said Ruckert. “I just had a love for it. I love practicing it and getting better. It just worked for me.”
In the final few years of his high school career, Ruckert began to get noticed on a more national stage. Scouts began coming to his games and were looking to bring him to their school once he was done at Lindenhurst. It’s not something that often happens in the area, where an athlete is getting noticed immediately, rather than having to reach out to colleges with game tape.
“After my sophomore year in high school, a bunch of colleges started reaching out,” said Ruckert. “Once a couple of big time schools started reaching out, a bunch of other schools started piling in. It was a good experience.”
Many recruiting firms initially had Ruckert tabbed as a four-star recruit, which surprised Ruckert at first. But after he decided to dedicate time to improving on that, he ended up having his best season senior year, where he not only had the most receiving touchdowns in his career (13), but also had 13 sacks for the defense. That gave him a five-star rating, which brought the likes of University of Notre Dame, University of Alabama, and University of Wisconsin into the mix of those recruiting him. Ruckert decided to attend another major school that was trying to get him on their team: The Ohio State University. He joined the team in June.
“They’re obsessed with winning, the challenge of getting out on the field, and playing with the best of the best,” said Ruckert. “It’s been a awesome experience going against some of the best defensive linemen in the country every day in practice. Working with the older guys that have all this experience and learning from all them, as well as the coaches with 30-plus years of experience, is helping me become a complete football player.”
Ruckert was recruited as a tight end, which gets him more involved in the blocking game for Ohio State. The team has not redshirted him, either, which means that he is available to play during the year. While most of the work he’s done has been on special teams, he got a chance to play on the offense during a blowout victory over Oregon State University at the start of the season.
“It was really awesome. I got my first catch,” said Ruckert. “Seeing my whole family there and seeing 110,000 people watching and cheering you on and playing alongside the best was a great experience.”
The 18-year old is just getting started in his career, and while being away from home is difficult, he will always be grateful for what the family and friends back home on Long Island have done for him.
“There’s definitely a giant sense of pride of where I’m coming from,” said Ruckert. “I love my town, I love where I’m from. I miss it a lot. Just knowing that they have my back, especially knowing that people from the area don’t usually make it this far, they give me a great sense of support. I think about them all the time.”