Former Carolina Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker is a busy man. He’ll be in Santa Clara to support the Panthers in their quest for Super Bowl victory. On March 5 he’ll participate in Charlotte Ballet’s Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte, to raise money for the ballet company and Rucker’s chosen charity, the USO of North Carolina. Rucker owns Vision Group Realty, and is coordinator for the Southeast Region of the NFL Legends Community, an organization that recognizes and celebrates NFL players by helping them further their careers in the business world. He and his wife, Kristina, have three children: Alexis, Mason and Marlee.
Q. Did your mom make you dress up as a kid?
A. It was a challenge to get us to anywhere, but Easter was the time we’d go out. It would be the main dressing event of the year, in traditional black pants and white shirt.
Q. Do you remember your first suit?
A. My aunt bought it for me. It was for my graduation from college. It was gray, with a peach pinstripe running through it, and it was double breasted. We went all out on the first one.
Q. How has your style developed?
A. In the last few years I’ve really honed in on style through GQ magazine, and I’ve educated myself. I read articles and learn the history of why something came about. Back in the ’50s and ’60s there was a reason for that little pocket, or trench coat, or double breast.
Q. What does style mean to you?
A. It means personality. I absolutely love New York. It’s hard to mess up because you can do anything. For someone starting, at first I was matchy-matchy. It had to be browns and blacks and grays. Over the last few years I’ve started mixing things up.
Q. What piqued your interest in fashion?
A. I think being educated. Sometimes you fear what you don’t know. Also, losing weight kind of got me into style. Now I can get into things that I couldn’t before. I just bought my first pair of skinny jeans a couple of months ago.
Q. Did you learn any fashion tips from your fellow players?
A. We were all in the same boat. We were all big guys. We were pretty much cookie-cutter, and looked the same. Now with technology you are seeing a lot more style. In early 2000 Facebook wasn’t around, Pinterest wasn’t around. Today’s technology, being at your fingertips, you are able to see what’s going on at events, rather than waiting a week to pick up a magazine.
Q. Is it tough to find clothing your size?
A. Before, the jeans had to be custom. Things were more baggy. Your suits had big wide bottoms because you had to get them over your quads. After losing about 35 pounds I was able to go into a department store and look at things on the rack, which opened up a whole new world.
Q. What’s a fashion mistake you try not to make?
A. Overdoing it. I love layering, but sometimes simple is better. I try to find that sweet spot, so people looking at you can see some movement, and that one little pop. You don’t want people to say “He’s trying too hard.”
Q. What piece of clothing was a game changer for you?
A. What changed my game was that secondary piece, that vest, those lightweight sweaters. You can get some nice shoes, but that extra mid-layer really opened me up.
Q. Do you remember something you bought with your first NFL paycheck?
A. We bought our house. A simple house in south Charlotte because we rented an apartment for six months to get a feel. We kept our college cars. Mine was a Chrysler New Yorker.
Q. Do you buy your wife clothes?
A. I’m all over it. I love shopping with her. We’ll take our trips to New York. I’d say I’m with her 85 percent of the time when she’s buying stuff. She’ll deny it, but I pick out most of her stuff. Women vs. men have so many more options, whether it is dress, a skirt, jeans, shoes. To see how she’s moving her wardrobe is really cool.
Q. Do you remember what you wore when you proposed to your wife?
A. It was a workout outfit. I knew it was going to happen, but it was a timing issue, so it was more about catching her off guard.
Q. Where do you shop in Charlotte?
A. I shop Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Lululemon, and when I’m going in for my nice pieces it’s Taylor Richards & Conger (TRC).
Q. Are you a shoe guy?
A. I’m a To Boot guy. They make a good shoe, with good quality leather, and a blended style. It’s a little bit old school with the wing tip. I was not a boot guy but the wife kept pounding me and about two years ago it clicked.
Q. What jeans fit you best?
A. I’d say 80 percent of my jeans are some form of AG.
Q. Does what you drive make a statement about you?
A. That’s hard to say. The car that I drive fits my body style and gives me the leg room I need. It’s a Mercedes, and it allows my legs to be straight.
Q. “I always splurge on …”
A. Technology. I’ve got a weakness for technology, whether it’s phones or speakers or computers. I’m a new-gadget guy.
Q. Do you have your eye on a new gadget?
A. My boy got a drone. So now I’m really close to getting my own.
Q. Tell me about a prized possession.
A. My rings. Three national championship rings from Nebraska, and my NFC championship ring.
Q. Describe your look.
A. Classic, with a new-age feel. A little old school, but I try to blend the new school to stay right in the middle.
Q. Are you loyal to any products?
A. I use Kale Naturals products for moisturizer. My cologne is Dolce & Gabbana.
Q. What’s the last thing you bought?
A. I just bought a tie, handkerchief and some socks for the NFL Honors award banquet. It’s got a blue-green feel to the tie, and the handkerchief is light gray with a hint of green.
Q. What’s your go-to watch?
A. I’m a Breitling guy. I wear the watch that I can blend in, whether it is sporty or for a black tie event.
Q. What bag do you carry and what’s in it?
A. Tumi. I will have my Beats Pill (portable speaker), I’m going to have some type of candy or gum or mint, and I’m going to have every type of charger, port, backup battery, headphones. When no one has tissue, I’m the guy who pulls it out of the bag.
Q. What’s the latest on your iPod?
A. I’m a country music guy. I try to stay diverse. I went to my first country concert this summer. Loved it.
Q. What’s your best bargain?
A. We hit it right sometimes when we go to Saks Fifth. We were there not too long ago and they were 40 percent off and it was hard not to go wild.
Q. Biggest splurge?
A. Probably on my Brunello Cucinelli. It’s a vest. It was an awesome piece. I got it at TRC. It’s lightweight, and it’s not a big puffy vest so you can put it under a suit jacket. I left the store and I tossed and turned and kept thinking about it. When I keep thinking about it, that’s the green light.
Q. What do your kids like you to cook for dinner?
A. Grilled salmon. That’s one food item that everyone can agree with. We keep it simple. A little oil and a little salt and pepper.
Q. What’s your favorite comfort food?
A. Bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes. Lemon.
Q. What chore do you put off?
A. Picking up my clothes.
Q. What fashion advice can you give men?
A. The biggest thing is being open and willing to ask if this works, or if this doesn’t, to a professional. That’s how you learn the do’s and don’ts and how far you can get to the side without getting out of your lane. Men are more apt to think fashion is a female thing.
Q. What wouldn’t you be caught dead wearing?
Q. What can you not believe you once wore?
Q. MC Hammer pants. And on top of that Mom made them, so they weren’t even designer.