For nine seasons, Missouri native Mike Rucker gave his all on the field as a defensive end for the Carolina Panthers. After being drafted in the second round in 1999, he moved to Charlotte, fell in love with the city and has remained here since.
“The goal was to remain with one team, and one team only, during my career,” Mike Rucker told CharlotteFive.
Twelve years later, he still holds the No. 3 spot for most all-time sacks for the Panthers.
While in the league, he set out to accomplish several career goals. In his nine years of playing, he meet all of them, except three.
“I wanted to play for 10 years, I played for nine. I wanted the chance to play with my brother, but we missed that chance by three months. I also wanted to win a Super Bowl, but we fell short 3 points against New England.”
As someone who had a successful NFL career, it was easy for him to release the game once he was done. Now, he is able to enjoy it as a spectator and works closely with the team in other ways.
During the pre-season, he works as an on-air commentator for the Panthers. He also does speaking engagements, so for him it’s a win-win.
CharlotteFive had the chance to catch up with him to learn what he’s up to these days and what life after the NFL looks like for him.
Latest business ventures
While he was still playing, Rucker began making plans for life after football. In the offseason, he would take part in an internship program that inspired him to help other NFL players through real estate.
“I found a need to help other players. Whether they needed an apartment or wanted to buy a house, or even get better educated on the industry as a whole,” Rucker said.
In 2004, he launched his company, Division Group Realty in Charlotte. Today, it is a full-service company helping anyone with their real estate needs.
About 6 years ago, the NFL’s main office created the NFL Legends program as a way to provide resources to former players. Rucker was selected as the director of the Southeast division and helps to connect players from the Panthers, Titans, Falcons, Jaguars and more.
“We are like a brotherhood for former players. There are more than 20,000 of us out there, and I get to reach across different generations to bring them all together.”
Life after playing in the NFL
Today, in addition to running his real estate company and working with NFL Legends, Rucker is staying active to keep his body healthy.
If you have seen Rucker lately, you will notice that he is a lot leaner than his days as a defensive end.
“Football takes a toll of your body and joints. I started having a lot of lower back issues, so I decided to get the weight off to release some of the pressure on my back,” he said.
He spent the first 6-8 post-NFL years focusing on his diet and eating right. Just in the last 2 or so years, he began getting back into regular workouts. He says his favorites these days are Orange Theory Fitness and cycling. But, no matter where he works out, he needs it to be a group setting to keep him engaged.
Rucker spends a lot of time with his wife and their three children exploring Charlotte’s growing food scene.
“We are a family that loves to eat. We go all over just to check out new food spots. We have no limits,” he said.