Charles Rucker - all-around natural athlete
Charles was born and raised in Morristown, Tennessee and according to both his father Adrian and brother Stephen, was an all-around natural athlete. Adrian was a high-profile track and football athlete in high school and at Georgia Tech, holding a couple of records at his high school for a couple of years. According to him, he and Charles started playing football in the house when Charles was about three years old.
Brother Stephen says it was clear in middle school that his brother was an elite talent and a natural at football. Charles was always a competitor, according to his dad. “When he was in middle school, he thought he could outrun me. Ha! I will leave it at that,” but by the time Charles was a senior in high school he was a stand-out track athlete and football player. His football team played for the Tennessee state title that year. They lost, but he was good enough to earn a full scholarship to the University of Cumberland in Kentucky.
One rainy day in his freshman year at Cumberland when Charles was driving home to see his family, he was cut off on the highway, skidded across the median into the path of an oncoming semi and his life was changed forever. Just like that.
Charles Rucker is featured in the March/April 2018 issue of OnFitness
He was in and out of the hospital for a year and endured several surgeries some to repair damage to his face and jaw, which was initially wired shut. He lost 100 pounds and could only drink liquids. His mother took him to and from the various doctor visits. “He was pretty deflated,” says his brother Stephen of that time. “Our mom is Charles biggest supporter, and Charles was the baby of the family. She babied him.” Stephen knew Charles needed to push himself on the road to recovery and convinced their mother to let him come and stay with Stephen for a couple of weeks. Stephen said to their mother something like, “Now we will see how much he really wants it.”
One day back home, he tossed Charles the car keys and said he needed him to follow him somewhere. This was the first time Charles had driven a car since the wreck, but he did it. Stephen talked with him about focusing on what he was going to do next and not to think all the time about the accident.
That worked. The wreck changed his life but did not alter Charles’ fundamental drive to compete. “I actually met Charles right after the accident,” says Coach Dwayne Beasley. “Some of the athletes I had trained suggested that he contact me to help him get back on the field.” Charles worked so hard that at times Coach Beasley had to tell him to take a day off just to recover from working out. “That’s how bad he wanted it!”
After talking with his coach at the University of Cumberland and thinking about his future in football, Charles decided to transfer to Middle Tennessee State University in Murphreesboro, where he did continue to play football after working with Coach Brendan Curry, who helped him. Meanwhile, Coach Beasley ended up working with Charles off and on for about five years. Whenever Charles was back in town during the remainder of his college years and even semi-pro ball, he would come in and cycle through Beasley’s training.
It took about a year-and-a-half for full recovery, but as Charles says, “I’m definitely hard headed; tell me I can’t do something, and I’ll prove to you that I can.” Eventually he landed a spot with the National Storm semi-pro team and they went on to win the National championship!
But the lingering effects from the bad accident, all the injuries and surgeries resulted in Charles deciding eventually to sideline football. He had been told by doctors that he might never play sports again, let alone football. He began working out as a body-builder and won his first competition in 2012, the NPC Music City Muscle show in Memphis. He loved it from the first second. “It gave me the same feeling I got from football, running out on the field before a game,” says Charles now.
Mike Potts, Charles present training coach, first ran into Charles three years ago at the Flex Lewis Classic and said, “When you’re ready to take this seriously and become a pro, contact me.” Those words stuck with Charles, and at the end of 2017, when he had been invited to compete in the 2018 Arnold Classic, he sought out Mike Potts, saying “Man, what you said to me a few years ago has been spinning in my head and I want the opportunity to work with ya’ll.”
That first victory back in 2012 was followed by nearly 30 top placings over the next five years, including Kentucky Muscle (2nd in 2013), a first at the 2015 Vulcan Classic Men’s Physique, second placings at 2015 Tampa Pro and 2015 NPC City of Champions Bodybuilding show. In 2016 Charles took second place at the Tampa Pro and a first at Music City Muscle.
He is training with Coach Potts for the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio on March 2, his biggest competition yet, but the gods had another challenge in mind. After a recent competition in LA, Charles returned home sick, with a high temperature, throwing up and thinking he probably had the flu. While in flight he passed out, and by this time his right leg started swelling up. Megan Mooney, his fiancée, says that he took aspirin for a couple of days and mostly slept, but he was no better, so that Friday morning they went to a doctor in Huntsville.
“You need to go to the ER right now,” said the doctor. This was now about 8 weeks from the Arnold Classic. As soon as he got to the ER they did blood work and did a CT-scan, and in less than three hours he was in surgery. He had picked up some sort of staff infection and they told him they needed to do emergency surgery because the infection had entered his bloodstream. They drained the infection in his right thigh and Charles spent the next seven days flat on his back in the hospital, not at the gym training for competition. “He was so weak, and it took a few days before he felt any better,” said Mooney. When he got out of hospital a week later he met with his Promera coach, Mike Potts, who gave him clearance to go on with his training.
“This will be the biggest show I have ever done, and you have to get invited, so I can’t just let this opportunity pass me by without a fight,” said Charles in a recent interview. He had a lot of ground to make up, but Charles is not put off easily. As his own father says, “He is so dedicated that it is scary. His faith in God has helped him a great deal.” Whenever Charles comes home to visit he still spends most of his time at the gym. I am very proud of him and I know he will achieve his goals,” adds Adrian.
Charles is sponsored these days by Promera Sports. He impressed Freddy Mullins, Sales Director for Promera from the get-go last March at the Arnold Classic. ” Immediately you know that the guy is 100% genuine and truly cares,” said Freddie. In bodybuilding and men’s physique, that necessitates being inherently self-focused, due to it being all about your physical development, conditioning and presentation, “it is extremely rare to come across someone like Charles, that always is thinking of how to help others!” That attitude, along with the countless hours he has spent to cultivate his show-winning physique, is what made Mullins push for Promera to sign him as part of the team.
For anyone familiar with the contest prep for the Arnold, one of the premiere bodybuilding competitions in the world, “seven days in the hospital would mean an immediate cancelling of the competition,” adds Mullins, speaking about the recent staph infection. Not Charles; he is right back in the gym, focused and pushing again to defy another of life’s great challenges. “He is a close friend, like a brother to me now,” says Mullins in closing.
The Promera team is very supportive of this athlete. Robin Romero, Athletic Director says Charles has been part of their Team CON-CRET for about two years now. Everyone on the team says that from day 1, he was truly special. “One look at him and you know he trains like a beast, but so do countless others in the fitness industry.” Romero says that what makes their athlete unique is his character. “He is a diamond in the rough.” He is grateful to be working for Team CON-CRET and has an incredible work ethic, always willing others along the way.
Ask his training partner, Kelly Mangrum, who has been training with Charles at Olympus Athletic Club and Gold’s Gym off and on for two years. The two are much alike, in that they don’t sit around and chat; they put in their headphones and get to work, neither letting the other get the upper hand. If Kelly does 10 of something, Charles does 11 and vice versa, which takes them always to the next level. As far as the recent staff infection and time in hospital, “It didn’t stop him one bit; he is still very much on track to compete and I feel that the infection has motivated him even more.”
“I have real support from my team; they have invested a lot of time and love in me,” Charles says. His workouts now are geared toward the March 2 competition. “I’m doing about an hour and 40 minutes of high-volume cardio daily in preparation for the competition.” This is not the normal workout schedule; this is designed for ramping up to competition. “This is a world-wide event and I will be up against the best.” His diet right now consists of cod, asparagus and tuna fish, along with the supplements he takes during this phase of training. He has competed in over 30 regional and national shows.
Charles Rucker is 32 and as a motivational speaker, talks to young high school and college athletes about staying the course, inspiring them to work hard. He also has a real estate business.
- By Sherry Ballou Hanson