Penn State football kicks off the 2021 season Saturday vs. Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions look to bounce back after the worst start in school history in 2020.
Helping The Sports Extra Podcast break down everything you need to know is Penn State alum Todd Rucci.
He played eight seasons in the NFL for the New England Patriots, and now is watching his two sons play football at Wisconsin.
He explains what it’s like to watch Nolan & Hayden Rucci, how recruiting has changed, his experience under former PSU head coach Joe Paterno and some life advice.
Started in 1988 and 33 years later, 3 Rucci boys get their chance to represent Pennsylvania in @psfcabig33. Hey Umberger Host Family @dave_umberger, here comes the last one! #Big33🏈🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/2V7hcpOcyJ— Todd Rucci (@ToddRucci71) February 18, 2021
Penn State & NFL career
Rucci grew up in Upper Darby, Pa. and dreamed of playing for Penn State. He graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1988, where he also competed in shot put and discus on the track team. Rucci was named to the Big 33 PA team, a legacy his sons continued in 2019 and 2021.
At Penn State, he played under legendary head coach Joe Paterno. Rucci credits the coach for the reason he still shows up 10 minutes early to anything (including the podcast Zoom meeting) almost 30 years after his college career is over.
He was drafted in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft (51st overall) to the New England Patriots. Rucci played in 85 games over eight seasons, starting 75, all in New England.
Todd was named to the 1990’s All-Decade Team for the Patriots.
““Part of coming back to Lancaster County was to get away from being known as Todd Rucci, New England Patriot,” he told ESPN back in 2011. “I just wanted to get back to being some old knucklehead who lives down the street. I got that, just a regular Joe. But whenever I get back to New England, like last weekend [for an alumni event], I remember how great it was to be a New England professional athlete. New England folks just absolutely love their athletes, period.”
At Penn State, Todd met his wife Stacy, an All-American field hockey player from Lancaster County.
On The Sports Extra Podcast he talks about “recruiting” Stacy to be his girlfriend, and using Rick Astley’s When I Fall in Love to win her over.
The pair got married, moved to Lititz after Todd retired from football, and have two sons together: Hayden & Nolan.
Hayden was a 4-star recuit coming out of Warwick High School in 2019. As a senior tight end, he had 645 yards on 30 catches and eight touchdowns. He finished his high school career with 1,129 yards and 12 TDs. He chose to attend Wisconsin to play football, laying the groundwork for his younger brother.
Nolan was a 5-star recruit on the offensive line, and was listed as a top-5 offensive tackle in the 2021 class nationwide. Nolan also chose to commit to Wisconsin and is expecting to redshirt this season.
You’ve had the old bull, now you’re gonna get the young calf #RucciBoys pic.twitter.com/beiTge935T— Hayden Rucci (@haydenrucci) July 12, 2021
Despite all the accolades for Todd, Stacy, Hayden and Nolan, the best athlete in the family may be Stacy’s father. Thomas Gilburg, played football and lacrosse at Syracuse and went on to play four seasons with the Baltimore Colts.
Gilburg coached Franklin & Marshall football for 28 seasons before retiring in 2002 compiling a 160-112-2 record. He won five Centennial Conference Championships and one MAC Southern Division Championships.
Happy Father’s Day pops!!! Thank you for showing two kids how to be men❤️ pic.twitter.com/LcDgB9nco9— Hayden Rucci (@haydenrucci) June 20, 2021
Also in the episode
Plus the podcast shares our keys to a successful 2021 Penn State season, what situation may put James Franklin in the hot seat and more.
Meet the voices behind the podcast: Allie Berube and Logan Reever. The Sports Extra Podcast is designed to bring listeners closer to the games, teams and athletes they love. The podcast will dive deeper than the hosts can go on TV.
The Sports Extra Podcast releases episodes every Thursday. The goal is to talk about national sports with a local flair. Allie & Logan bring guests on each week to share their perspectives on sports.
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