STANARDSVILLE — Some players motivate their teammates with emotional speeches. Others prefer to lead by example.
William Monroe running back Dupree Rucker can inspire his team with a simple smile.
“His smile is contagious,” William Monroe coach Jon Rocha said. “He always has this huge smile and you can’t help but smile with him.”
The senior had plenty to smile about Friday night as he led the Greene Dragons to their first win of the season. Rucker carried the ball 24 times for a career-high 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns as William Monroe rolled to a 54-21 win over rival Madison County.
“We had a big win Friday and we are expecting to learn from that win and get better,” Rucker said.
Rucker’s performance Friday against the Mountaineers secured him Daily Progress Athlete of the Week honors.
“What he did Friday on the field is huge, but when he was taken out of the game to let the other players play, he was on the sidelines cheering them on and cheering for the team,” Rocha said. “He is just a team player and the players follow his lead.”
Football has always been Rucker’s first love.
“I didn’t play any other sport,” Rucker said. “I only played football because I grew up around football and I loved to run the ball.”
Rucker hasn’t stopped doing what he loves. An all-Northwestern District selection at running back last season, the senior leads the Greene Dragons in rushing despite facing some very tough competition in the first three games of the season.
“The offense fits me perfect,” Rucker said. “When everybody does their job, it opens holes for me and my teammates to get in open space.”
His favorite play in the offense is 24-power, which allows him to follow his blocking and hit the hole with speed.
The explosive plays were few and far between early in the season as William Monroe broke in new faces on the offensive line and at the quarterback position.
“We had really good opponents and our line was developing,” Rucker said. “I knew once they figured it out, we would be ok.”
The big-play ability was unleashed two weeks ago when Rucker broke off an 80-yard touchdown run against Clarke County in the second half off a loss to the Eagles. That run gave the offense confidence heading into last week’s showdown with Madison County.
“Playing three hard teams, I feel like it helped make us better,” Rucker said. “We all did our job, we all blocked and I’m just happy we won. It all starts with the line up front and they did a phenomenal job.”
Rucker was the beneficiary of the strong work up front. He opened the game with seven straight carries for 39 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game.
He followed that up with a 22-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter as the Greene Dragons finished the game with six rushing touchdowns.
Rucker’s impact could’ve been even better. He had two touchdowns called back because of penalties, including a 76-yard run in the second half.
“I felt like the line did an excellent job on Friday,” Rucker said. “I wouldn’t be able to run without them. It was my best game I ever had, and to have it against Madison was amazing.”
Big scoring runs are nothing new for Rucker, who patterns his game after Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
“My mindset when the ball is snapped is to find a crease and take it to the house,” Rucker said.
He’s also worked hard in the offseason fine-tuning his game. Rucker said he’s become more of a student of the game, dissecting film to see what opposing defenses are trying to do to stop him. In addition, the senior has worked hard to become a better blocker.
Rocha said his emergence as a team leader is also evident.
“Dupree has been very positive about this year and it’s important to him that the team is very positive also,” Rocha said.
Off the field, Rucker enjoys the simple things in life. He loves hanging out with his friends, playing video games.
The senior said singing is one of his secret talents, as well as dancing.
“I’m pretty good at it,” he said.
With a bye week this week, Rocha said his team will look to build off last week’s victory as they prepare for a showdown with Jefferson District foe Western Albemarle on Oct. 4.
After his breakout game against the Mountaineers, Rucker understands that he will be the focal point of defenses for the remainder of the season. The senior accepts that responsibility.
“I like [being] that person,” he said. “I like getting the ball. Sometimes it puts pressure on me because I have to perform, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.”