Jeremy Ruckert had been watching, and not so patiently.
A foot injury forced the tight end to be a spectator during practices for much longer than he had hoped. Now that he’s healthy, Ruckert is trying to show the Jets that he can be a reliable player. The former Lindenhurst star is off to a good start.
Ruckert’s opportunity came in the fourth quarter of the Jets’ first preseason game, a 24-21 win over Philadelphia, and he showed why the organization is so high on him.
The Jets took him in the third round out of Ohio State, loving his ability to block in the running game and believing he could be a weapon in the passing game as well. Ruckert delivered some big blocks to open running lanes and caught two passes Friday, including one for a 1-yard touchdown that gave the Jets a 17-14 fourth-quarter lead.
For the lifelong Jets fan, catching that touchdown pass and being able to help his favorite team to a win definitely meant something.
“It was a cool moment,” Ruckert told Newsday. “When I’m in the moment of the game, I’m just thinking about executing whatever I’m asked to do. Not making any moment too big or too small and just trying to live in the moment.
“Looking back on it, it’s cool, it’s a cool situation, cool opportunity that I had. But it’s just the start of a journey that I want to keep working on and keep trusting the guys in this room and this offense. I’m very excited.”
The 6-5, 250-pound Ruckert is part of a tight end upgrade, and the Jets believe they have one of the league’s most talented groups at the position.
Tyler Conklin has been one of the best players in camp. Former Bengal C.J. Uzomah is coming off the most productive season in his seven-year career. Ruckert is trying to carve out his niche after spending all of OTAs and the first seven practices of training camp recovering from a foot injury that he suffered at the Senior Bowl.
Ruckert wasn’t used as much in the passing game for Ohio State, but the Jets believe that is a big part of his game. His strength and ability to block were what first got their attention. He has all the skills the Jets are looking for from the tight end position in this offense and could be a big part of their future.
“It’s been hard sitting on the sidelines and watching,” Ruckert said. “I’ve never really had an injury to sit out and miss anything. So that was definitely hard. Getting out there [Friday] and enjoying the moment with all the guys, I missed that. Being able to do that for my hometown team is great. I’m excited for the future.”
Ruckert plans to keep putting in the work and trying to make up for lost time. He’s learning the ropes from the veterans and is focused on doing whatever the coaches want him to do.
“Just continue to get those practice reps, get those game reps,” he said. “I missed a lot of that this whole offseason just rehabbing this foot. Understanding my role, understanding what this team needs from me. I’m not looking for any expectations for what I need to get out of it. I just want to help the team any way I can. Just getting that down and getting a clear understanding of what they need me to and just do it.”