Ten years ago, Mike Rucker was playing in the Super Bowl as a defensive end for the Carolina Panthers.
Rucker has never been to a Super Bowl before or since. But he is coming to this one, primarily to work for the newly-instituted NFL Legends program but also to go to the game.
Rucker is one of 20 former players who serve in NFL Legends, a league-sponsored program designed to let former players communicate more with each other and use the power of the NFL office to further their own career or charitable goals.
“We basically find all the retired guys and acknowledge them and ask how we can serve them best,” Rucker said. “If they are already doing something in the community, we try to bring more awareness to it.”
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After working most of Friday and Saturday, Rucker will be able to enjoy the game in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday. He has mixed feelings about who he wants to win, having played for Denver coach John Fox when Fox was at Carolina and also having teamed with linebacker Dan Morgan for the Panthers. Morgan now works in Seattle’s front office.
“It’s like having two kids on two different teams and they are playing each other,” Rucker said. “I know I’m going to be happy for one and sad for the other.”
Rucker said he didn’t want to predict a winner. He did say he believed the game would be more low-scoring than many people think and would wind up 21-17.
• Seattle and Denver have actually played once before this season. It was in the preseason, which is why you probably don’t remember. Seattle blew out the Broncos, 40-10, on Aug.17 in Seattle. Although Denver’s starters played less than two quarters in that one, the game inspired the ire of John Elway, the former Bronco quarterback who now runs the team.
Elway addressed the team a couple of days later and peeled some paint off the walls, according to quarterback Peyton Manning.
“He said it was not acceptable,” Manning said. “And he was talking to every one of us.”
• Manning is such a legend, even among his own teammates, that any gesture from him looms very large. Sylvester Williams, a former North Carolina star whom the Broncos selected in the first round in the 2013 NFL draft, described his first contact with No.18 to me.
“Peyton texted me on draft day,” Williams said. “I had so many messages I didn’t see it until 3 in the morning. But when I saw it, I just freaked out -- for a guy like that to even notice me. But he’s not a Hollywood-type guy at all. He turns out to be a regular guy.”