Ricker Rises to Top at Tampa
During his playing days at Mizzou, A.J. Ricker was First Team All-Big 12 and set an MU record for consecutive starts at center. Ricker says it's been a hard road, trying to make it in professional football.
"It's been quite a journey. I did NFL Europe last year," said Ricker. "Went to the Bears' camp and got released last year. Came home to substitute teach, ended up getting a call from the coach and they needed a center and I went to Tampa and here I am."
Ricker plays for the Tampa Bay Storm in the Arena Football League. The indoor football field is half the size of a regulation field, but Ricker said no special skills are needed to make the transition.
"Football is football and everyone's got to strap it up and go," he noted.
His coaches are impressed with his progress, too.
"I think he's adjusted well, and he didn't know anything about Arena Football, but his past with Missouri and he Bears and things," said Tampa Bay line coach Dave Ewart. "We use him on offensive rotation. He's been very good with the bull rush and been a good fit for us."
Ricker's coaches also said the sky's the limit.
"A.J. can go as far as he wants," added Ewart. "He's just as good as a football player as we've had around here."
Ricker tried to make it a couple of times in the National Football League and NFL Europe, but he said he prefers the excitment and padded walls of the indoor game.
"I'm old-school and I like traditional football," he admitted. "But, Arena's been good to me so far and it's fun."
Ricker had a taste of the NFL, but he said it wasn't so sweet.
"NFL, been there, done that. Had coffee there. But, I have no ambitions of going back to the NFL," he said. "NFL's a great league and a great organization, but I've tried twice and I'm kind of burnt out on that. I've found a little niche that I enjoy and, hopefully, be around for a little bit."
The AFL season runs through June. Ricker said he plans to coach football after his playing days end.