"MOST MOTHERS don't know what's going on during football games, but my mom, LaVell Rucker, does. She sees what happens to me in the pits. She understands how blockers try to attack me, and she can tell when somebody is holding. She's always been like that. She knows sports. She played basketball at Missouri Western, a Division II school in my hometown of St. Joseph. Since I've become an athlete, she has never missed one of my games.
"My mother didn't let anything slide with me. When I was nine, I came home with a bad progress report, and she yanked me out of peewee football. She told me I wasn't playing as long as my grades weren't right. I didn't see the field again until my report card came home. My grades were up by then, but I'd missed most of the season. She wanted me to see the right way to do things.
"Whenever I hit the field, I always know where to find her. My mother has been bringing an old, rusty cowbell to my games since I was a kid. She clangs that thing as loud as she can. She does the same thing for my younger brother, Martin, who's a redshirt freshman tight end at Missouri. It's my mother's way of letting us know she's right there with us, but she doesn't need the bell to tell me that. I've known it my entire life."
COURTESY OF RUCKER FAMILY (MIKE AND LAVELL RUCKER)
CRAIG JONES/GETTY IMAGES (RUCKER ACTION)