Jeremy Ruckert joined an exclusive group this fall. The Lindenhurst senior became only the fourth player in the 56 years of Newsday’s All-Long Island football team to earn a first team distinction three times.
He’s in the club of excellence with Kevin Cassese of Comsewogue, Jason Gwaltney of North Babylon and Jack Coan of Sayville.
The 6-6, 237-pound Ruckert led Lindenhurst to the school’s first Long Island Class I championship with a 40-23 victory over Oceanside. In stockpiling numerous awards, the Ohio State five-star recruit was ultimately recognized as Gatorade’s State Player of the Year.
Ruckert reaped the benefits of an outstanding season in which he copped a share of the 58th Hansen Award presented to Suffolk’s top player. He was also a two-time Suffolk I MVP, and recipient of the National Football Foundation’s top receiver award.
He finished this year with 61 receptions for 1,094 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 18 yards per catch as Lindenhurst had its first 12-0 season. As a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, Ruckert also had 61 tackles, four forced fumbles, two interceptions, including one for a score and 13 sacks for the lowest scored-upon defense in Suffolk I. And he nailed 48 of 50 extra-point kicks and six field goals, and had 42 touchbacks on his kickoffs.
Lindenhurst compiled a 40-5 record, including two Suffolk titles, during Ruckert’s four-year career. He finished with 222 receptions, 3,133 yards and 37 receiving touchdowns.
Ruckert will play in the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio, Texas on Jan. 6, and in the Polynesian Bowl in Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii Jan. 20.
The other three-time All-Long Island first-team players:
Kevin Cassese, Comsewogue, 1996-98: The first sophomore to earn All-Long Island honors after a season in which he led the Warriors to the Long Island Class III title with a 15-13 win over Bethpage. The 6-0, 185-pound quarterback/defensive back went on to a stellar career in which he totaled 6,103 all-purpose yards and 14 interceptions. He ran the double-wing offensive set, scoring 36 rushing touchdowns and passing for another 22. He was a runner-up for the Hansen Award in his senior season but earned the highly coveted James LaBue Award, presented to Suffolk’s top scholar-athlete. He is currently the men’s lacrosse coach at Lehigh University.
Jason Gwaltney, North Babylon, 2002-04: Widely considered Suffolk’s greatest player of all time, the halfback/linebacker is the only two-time winner of the Hansen Award (2003, 2004). The 6-2, 220-pounder rumbled for a Long Island record of 2,882 yards in his senior year. He scored 45 touchdowns in each of his last two seasons. He set career records for TDs (135), rushing yards (7,800), carries (948) and points (828). He scored a state record nine TDs in three quarters of play against Copiague in 2004. Gwaltney now works as a personal trainer in Massapequa.
Jack Coan, Sayville, 2014-16: He was a three-time Esiason Award winner as Suffolk’s top quarterback, and earned the Hansen Award and the Gatorade state player of the year as a senior. The 6-3, 202-pounder could throw with touch or fire a laser in tight coverage and set Long Island career records for passing yards (9,787) and touchdown passes (128), while also rushing for 2,551 yards (6.54 average) and 33 scores. As a sophomore, he completed 195 of 327 passes to set Long Island single-season records with 3,431 yards and 40 touchdowns. He is currently a freshman backup quarterback at Wisconsin, which plays Miami in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.