Nolan Rucci’s first athletic scholarship offer from a major college came on Sept. 8.
It was no surprise that Wisconsin was the first to push all of its chips in on the Warwick sophomore lineman, considering his older brother, Warwick senior tight end Hayden Rucci, has already committed to the Badgers.
The offer to Nolan Rucci, however, opened the floodgates for the 6-foot-8, 266-pound left tackle.
Rucci has since received seven more offers over the course of the last three weeks, as Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Michigan State, West Virginia, Pitt, Virginia and Penn State have all jumped onboard the Nolan Rucci train.
It’s an easy bet that list will continue to grow moving forward.
“It’s nice to take a look back and see everything that’s going on,” Nolan Rucci said. “But I’m definitely staying low-key.”
That’s thanks, in part, to Nolan’s older brother, who has already been through the recruiting cycle as one of the top tight ends in the Class of 2019. Last school year, 6-foot-5, 225-pound Hayden Rucci took 24 college visits before ultimately deciding on Wisconsin. Nolan Rucci tagged along on each of those visits, where college football coaches probably noticed Hayden’s younger, but larger, brother.
“He’s helped me keep my head down, stay low, not be too crazy about it,” Nolan Rucci said of his brother. “Focus on practice. Don’t get too cocky. Have a good time at practice.”
Along the way, the Rucci boys have also been fortunate in having mother and father, Stacy and Todd Rucci, to keep things in perspective.
Stacy Rucci was an all-American in field hockey at Penn State, and her father, Tom Gilburg, played at Syracuse, in the NFL and was a longtime football coach at Franklin & Marshall College.
“Just yesterday, I’m like, ‘Nolan, you know it’s going to get crazier. What I don’t want you to lose sight on is school,’ ” Stacy Rucci said.
Todd Rucci played at Penn State and then in the NFL for the New England Patriots. He’s in his 14th season as the Warwick offensive line coach — and in his ninth year as a member of the Warwick School Board.
“Don’t get caught up in all the shiny stuff. All that stuff doesn’t matter,” Todd Rucci said Tuesday when asked what advice he’s given to both of his sons during the recruitment process.
So while college recruiting websites like 247sports.com are busy publishing things like Nolan Rucci “may be the hottest recruit in the 2021 class,” Todd Rucci keeps his youngest son grounded by pointing to the improvements he needs to make on the football field.
“When you’re that big, he has an advantage in size. But the one thing that I’m a stickler on, and we’re a stickler on, is you have to be pretty disciplined in your technique,” Todd Rucci said. “He’s got a long way. ... The nice thing is it’s tough to coach size. He has size, which is an advantage. He’s just got to get better at technique and the rhythm of the game.”
Nolan Rucci, who also plays basketball and lacrosse, was one of four new starters on the Warriors’ varsity O-line entering the 2018 campaign. That group has leaned on the leadership of 6-4, 285-pound senior lineman Nick Coomer, who is committed to Delaware.
“He (Coomer) is one of my role models,” Nolan Rucci said. “He loves everything about the game. I’ve learned a lot from him as a high school football player.”
Thus far, that O-line unit has protected QBs Adam Ricketts and Joey McCracken for a spread offense that’s tops in the Lancaster-Lebanon League in passing yards (1,615), as Warwick (5-1 overall, 3-0 Section One) is busy prepping for Friday’s big-time Section One clash at defending section champ Manheim Township (5-1, 1-1).
“A lot of it is just focusing on week-to-week, who we got, watching film, practicing,” Nolan Rucci said.
In other words, Rucci and his teammates have other, more important priorities, like contending for an L-L Section One crown and beyond. College can wait.
“I’m trying to keep an open mind about it and not try to make too many decisions early,” Rucci said of his college recruitment. “Just give every school a chance. I’ll make that decision at some point.”