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Flight troubles don't hamper Hayden Rucci’s return to Madison

The four-star tight end gives the lowdown on his trip to Wisconsin.

Hayden Rucci (left) with Badgers Digitals guru Nolan Kromke on Saturday
Given by Hayden Rucci/Graham Mertz

Despite some travel difficulties getting to Madison, Wisconsin 2019 commit Hayden Rucci described his first trip flying alone ever as “easy” as he reconnected with some of his future teammates last weekend.

Rucci received some help from BadgersDigitals creator Nolan Kromke and his family, who picked up the prep tight end standout—not from Dane County Regional Airport on the northeast side of town, but Milwaukee, about 90 minutes east of the state capital.

“They came in big-time and saved me there,” Rucci told B5Q on Monday.

After settling down in Madison, Rucci took in Wisconsin’s 41–24 win over Nebraska with quite a few of his future teammates.

Rucci joined fellow Wisconsin commits Graham Mertz, Joe Tippmann, Logan Brown, Blake Wilcox, Leo Chenal, and Spencer Lytle in Madison. He also connected with then-Kansas commit Clay Cundiff, who was on his official visit to UW.

With Cundiff, a special moment developed when Rucci, Mertz, and Lytle saw the three-star tight end receive an offer from Wisconsin after the game. As Cundiff and Rucci told B5Q earlier this week, tight ends coach Mickey Turner extended the offer to Cundiff in the locker room, which got the current commits elated.

“I was so jacked, I punched him straight in the chest,” Rucci said. “I was jumping around, me and Graham were excited.”

Cundiff, a three-star recruit from Wichita, Kan. (Bishop Carroll) flipped to Wisconsin from Kansas just a day later.

“I just met him on Saturday, but it’s so fun,” Rucci said. “I feel like we’re best friends. It’s a really good situation that we got him.”

During the summer, Rucci took his official visit to UW on the same weekend as many of the commits that were in town on Saturday. The bond between the current class of 2019 commits has continued to grow since.

From left to right: Blake Wilcox, Logan Brown, Joe Tippmann, Hayden Rucci, Spencer Lytle, Leo Chenal with all holding Graham Mertz
Rucci Family

Rucci plans to sign during the early signing period in December but come to Wisconsin after his senior year of high school. Before that, the Lititz, Pa. (Warwick) standout has some unfinished business left on the prep field.

Warwick is 5–2 heading into this week’s game. A win would tie the Warriors for the L-L League Section One title. With three regular-season games left as a senior, Rucci obviously wants to finish his high school career strong—but he also gets the opportunity to play alongside his younger brother, Nolan.

An offensive lineman, Nolan himself has seen significant college interest come his way of late, receiving offers from Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia.

Hayden is particularly excited by his younger brother’s recruiting process taking off.

“I’m just pumped for him,” Rucci said. “Just where it takes him, even though I know where I want his recruitment to go, but I’ll be trying to influence him on that, so it’ll be fun recruiting him even for the next two years.”

Rucci currently plays tight end, defensive end, and even long snapper—something he described as “fun and exhausting.” On the offensive side of the ball, he acknowledged he has gotten more involved in the passing game.

Rucci has caught 17 passes for 356 yards with four receiving touchdowns through seven games, but make no mistake, he still enjoys the ground-and-pound mentality in the run game.

“Four [touchdowns] right now,” Rucci said, “and last year, I only had three touchdowns, so it’s been good getting the ball a little more, but still keeping it in the ground game.

“Getting those pancakes in is my favorite.”