Jeremy Ruckert
via Instagram

Long Island native Jeremy Ruckert is a key piece for Ohio State as they look to upset Alabama and win the National Championship.

Danny Small

Even though Long Island isn’t exactly a hotbed for Division I football talent, one of its own is going to be center stage in the National Championship game on Monday night. Tight end Jeremy Ruckert was quiet for most of the season, but he’s breaking out for the Buckeyes at the perfect time.

Ohio State (7-0) will take on Alabama (12-0) on Monday night in the final game of this bizarre college football season. The year culminates with the two best teams duking it out for the chance to stand alone at the top.

The heavily-favored Crimson Tide are expected to roll to another National Championship under Nick Saban but don’t sleep on the Buckeyes. Quarterback Justin Fields could end up coming to New York if the Jets decide to take him in the draft, but for now, let’s focus on the local product that is Jeremy Ruckert.

The Lindenhurst Native

Ruckert accomplished just about everything he could have while he was in high school. He helped lead Lindenhurst to its first Long Island Class I title and was named New York’s Gatorade State Player of the Year.

Rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 2 tight end in his class, Ruckert was recruited by UConn, Boston College, Auburn, and Alabama. That’s right. The Long Island product was recruited by the team that he’s going up against in the National Championship.

Dominant Sugar Bowl Performance

Who says Ohio State doesn’t use its tight ends? Ruckert put that myth to bed in the Buckeyes’ convincing Sugar Bowl win over the Clemson Tigers. Fields and Ruckert were in lockstep as the tight end went for 55 yards and two touchdowns on three receptions.

Ruckert tied his career-high for touchdowns in a game and set a new career-mark for reception yards against Clemson. On the biggest stage with the brightest lights, Ruckert came through in a big way. He’s looking to continue his hot streak against the stingy Alabama defense.

But even if he’s not as effective in the passing game, the junior has shown that he can contribute to winning in other ways. Ruckert is a phenomenal blocker who helps open up holes in the running game. His exceptional run-blocking was on full display in the Sugar Bowl.

The “Complete” Package

Ruckert might not be putting up the eye-popping stats that many Long Islanders hoped he would when he arrived in Columbus, but there’s more to it than that. Whether it’s blocking, catching, and everything in between, Ruckert feels like Ohio State is developing him into a complete player.

“It’s a developmental position, and if I went anywhere else, I wouldn’t be half the player I am right now,” Ruckert told reporters last week. “I’ve been developed into a complete player in all aspects of the game. Whether it’s run-blocking, pass protection or in the passing game, it shows that we use all of our guys. We don’t need to sub anybody out. We’re all capable, and there’s no other place that can showcase all these abilities than here.”

The Buckeyes are going to need Ruckert to step up on Monday if they are going to pull off the upset. Alabama is the heavy favorite for a reason.

But let’s all think back to the last time Ohio State and Bama met — it was the inaugural College Football Playoff and the Buckeyes sent the Crimson Tide home.