What started out for Charles Rucker as a visit to see his family, turned into a petrifying hospital visit.
There was nothing subtle or inconspicuous about the night of Rucker’s car accident. Skidding tires, piercing glass and overbearing metal defined that night in 2005. While cruising down the interstate, Rucker lost control of the car — with his teammate in the passenger seat.
In a matter of seconds, the two teammates’ fates lied in whatever path the car randomly carried them to. They landed on possibly the worst path of them all — straight to the other side of the median, colliding head-on with a semi-truck.
After the accident, the only things more crushed than Rucker’s car were his NFL aspirations.
“In the blink of an eye, I lost everything I worked so hard for,” Rucker said. “Goodbye football career, hello to my new, unknown life.”
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The Tennessee native was a football standout as a running back at University of the Cumberlands in central Kentucky, where he earned a full scholarship. He may have lost his scholarship after the accident, but he didn’t lose his grit.
“Recovering from concussions, fractures and blood loss, is not pleasant, the physical (and mental) aspects from the accident are the hardest things I’ve had to endure in my life.” Rucker recalled. For over year, he was in and out of the hospital either on the surgery table or in bed. Because of his several facial fractures, he fed out of a straw for three months. He lost over 100 pounds as a result — the same muscle weight he was working day in and day out to gain.
A long recovery for Charles Rucker
Charles Rucker was relentless in battling his circumstances even through battling night terrors and PTSD. He knew he wanted to play football somehow, some way again — regardless of how long recovery would take.
“A lot of stuff happens and people often give up when things got really hard,” he said. “There were plenty of times I felt there was no way out — there always is.” Not long after Charles Rucker started eating solids, he began to gain his strength back. He decided to train once again for the field, in hopes of rebuilding a career from square one.
A year and a half after he was flung onto the interstate, he was in the “best shape” of his life, he said. Rucker eventually recovered and spent the following years making up for lost time and training with Dwayne Beasley, a seasoned college and professional football coach.
Under Beasley’s wing, Rucker immediately earned the attention of National Storm, a semi-pro football team. Finally able to thrive as a running back again, Rucker’s team won the AFL national championship. However, all good things must come to an end. That championship game was the final chapter of his football story.
Another door opens
Rucker’s newfound passion after hanging up his cleats became bodybuilding.
Last year, he was invited to the 2018 Arnold, one of the world’s most esteemed physique competitions. He has made a name for himself in the physique scene, excelling in competitions across the country.
Bodybuilding and personal training are his ways of keeping his fitness a priority.
“I’m always sore. I always work out,” he said. “It’s part of what I do.”
He’s eternally grateful for his progress and regained abilities. The “second chance” he received gave him a fresh perspective on life that he said he desperately needed. “Before the accident, I was an angry person… I didn’t have a lot of guidance, I was heading down the wrong path,” he said. “The car accident was a wake up call — [it] saved my life… without it, on the path I was heading, I probably wasn’t going to live past 30 years old.”
The whole ordeal left him incredibly depressed. He said that people saw what he was going through and believed he would never make a comeback. Rucker’s wrestle with depression “lasted years,” but faded away once he earned the national championship title and discovered a love for bodybuilding.
After his agonizing period of hospital visits and liquid meals, Rucker felt obligated to rebuild not only his football career — but also his life.
Charles Rucker: ‘Family first’
Rucker helps out his family any way he can, even in ways that have nothing to do with fitness. He’s the founder of True Discipline, a personal training group that operates out of four gym facilities in the mid-Atlantic states. In 2018, he founded Ruck Nutrition, a supplement company that reflects his honesty, strength and integrity.
Ruck Nutrition and True Discipline are ways to help people on their own fitness and wellness journeys — just like so many coaches, teammates and family members helped him find his own footing after the accident.
They’re also ways to support his mother, who he prays with every morning. “I grew up with a single mom who has a disability,” he said. “I didn’t want to end up where I was and I was determined to build a better life for myself to be able to help her.”
His ultimate goal is to spread his story to anyone that needs it. Regardless of age, gender, race or creed — Rucker believes his message can move anybody that’s in a low point in their life.
Others experiences are moving for Rucker. The stories he has heard remind him that anybody can “move forward and have a better life.”
The slogan for his personal training program is “It’s a Mindset,” which is the same slogan he carries with him every day. “I want to show people that no matter where you come from or what you have dealt with… you can pick the right hand,” he said. “It doesn’t define where you have to end up.”
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