Countdown to 2020: Best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 33
Who was the best player to wear No. 33 for the Cleveland Browns?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 33 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 33: Reggie Rucker.
Reggie Rucker originally signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent following the 1969 NFL draft. Rucker was a two-sport athlete while attending Boston University. Excelling at both football and baseball, Rucker would later be inducted into the Boston University Athletic Hall of Fame as a multi-sport athlete.
Rucker would play for three different teams before he made his way to Cleveland in 1975. Once in Cleveland, it was apparent that Rucker had finally found his home. His first season in Cleveland, Rucker would go on to lead the Browns in receptions, receiving yards, and tied for the lead in touchdown receptions. Although his 60 receptions in 1975 would prove to be his career-high, his 12.8 yards per reception would prove to be his lowest average during his stint with the Browns.
He would repeat as the team leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns once again in 1976. Although he would have a slightly down year in 1977, Rucker would bounce back during the 1978 campaign.
Coinciding with Rucker’s upswing in 1978 was the arrival of the new head coach, Sam Rutigliano. Under coach Rutigliano, the Browns’ offense would shift to a more pass-oriented scheme. Rucker’s stats benefitted the most from the new coaching philosophy. Although he only recorded 43 receptions, his 893 receiving yards were good enough to rank him at sixth in the NFL, and his career-high 20.8 yards per reception ranked him at fourth in the league.
Rucker would play a pivotal role for the Kardiac Kids in both 1979 and 1980. Forming a three-headed receiving monster with budding wide receiver Dave Logan and talented second-year tight end Ozzie Newsome, the Browns had one of the most solid pass-catching groups in the entire NFL. Even though Rucker’s prominence in the offense would diminish slightly, his efficiency remained high and he always came up with the big catch when it mattered most.
After the 1981 season, where nagging injuries caused his playing time and his numbers to decline, Rucker decided to retire. Rucker played seven seasons as a member of the Browns, and his 4,953 receiving yards rank fifth in team history. Rucker’s 310 receptions, 16 yards per catch, and 32 receiving touchdowns all rank sixth in team history.
Reggie Rucker was an outstanding receiver and he is the best player to ever wear number 33 for the Cleveland Browns.
Honorable mentions: Daylon McCutcheon and Leroy Hoard.