Charles Rucker was born and raised in Morristown, Tennessee by a single mother on disability. Together with his grandmother, their love, strength and determination laid the foundation for Charles’ mentality to conquer any obstacle or challenge.
Charles started playing football when he was just three years old and by middle school, “It was clear he was a naturally gifted athlete and competitor.” By the time he was a senior in high school, he was a stand-out football player and track athlete. His high school football team played for the Tennessee State title that year. Upon graduation, he went on to earn a full scholarship to the University of Cumberland in Kentucky.
In 2005, during Charles’ freshman year, he was driving home on a rainy night to see his family when he was cut off on the highway. His vehicle lost control and slid across the median into the path of an oncoming semi. That night within seconds Charles’ life changed forever. The accident threw him out of the car breaking bones throughout his face and body. With his jaw wired shut, Charles lost nearly 100 pounds and spent the next year in and out of the hospital enduring several surgeries to repair the damage.
Arising from one of the lowest moments in his life, the wreck changed Charles’ life but did not alter his fundamental drive to compete. After talking with his coach at the University of Cumberland about his future in football, Charles decided to transfer to Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, where he returned to the field. “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.”
Coach Beasley and Charles continued to train together on and off the field. It took about a year-and-a-half to fully recover from the accident, but Charles says, “I’m a hard-headed guy. If you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll prove to you that I can without any hesitation.” After graduation, Charles landed a spot with the Nashville Storm arena football team and went on to win a National Championship. But with the lingering effects from the accident, surgeries, and advice of doctors, Charles was forced to sideline his football career.
Naturally, Charles wasn’t deterred and began training as a bodybuilder, winning his first competition in 2012 at the NPC Music City Muscle show in Nashville. He loved the sport from the second he started in the gym. “It gave me the same feeling I got from football, a competitive edge, like running out onto the field before a game,” recalls Charles. 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 place 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. In 2018, after a recent competition in LA, Charles returned home sick, with a high temperature and symptoms that resembled the flu. While in flight, he passed out and his right leg began to swell up. A doctor in Huntsville said, “You need to go to the ER right now.” This was about eight weeks from the Arnold Classic which he had been training for. As soon as he got to the ER, they did blood work and a CT-scan, and in less than three hours, he was in surgery. Charles had picked up a staph infection and was told he needed emergency surgery due to the infection entering his bloodstream. Charles spent the next seven days flat on his back in the hospital, not at the gym training for competition. When he got out of the hospital he met with his coach, who gave him clearance to go on with his training. Charles had a lot of ground to make up before Arnold but he was ready for a fight.
For anyone familiar with the contest prep for the Arnold, one of the premier bodybuilding competitions in the world, seven days in the hospital would mean immediate cancellation of the competition for that individual. But not for Charles. That year, despite all the challenges, he worked harder than ever and made it to the finals in Men’s Physique.
In 2020, Charles prepared for a return to the Arnold Classic. “I came in second, losing the World Title by one point. It's something I’m going to think about every day until I step back on stage,” Charles says. “The preparation for this type of show is not my normal workout routine, but it is designed for ramping up to the competition. This is a world-wide event where I was competing against the best so I had to be prepared mentally, physically and spiritually”. Preparation for this Arnold had been an entirely new challenge for Charles, but for very different reasons. In 2020, Charles endured the loss of 13 friends and family members who passed away including his best friends from childhood, Mark Gettis and Meece Kyle; and his grandmother who helped raise him. Each played pivotal roles in his life on a daily basis. The loss was immense.
“I was devastated all of 2020 to the point of just feeling numb,” Charles said. “But with my team around me and I’ve been able to push through. Sometimes there is a season in your life where you think you're going through devastation, when it's actually God putting you through preparation to take you to the next level. Sometimes through trauma is where you actually find growth.” Through these experiences it made Charles step away and work on self healing as he refocused on his vision for the Ruck brand.
Today, Ruck Nutrition arises as more than a supplement company but as a brand that makes an impact on one’s body, mind and soul. With the addition of Ruck Meals, Ruck Performance Academy, Ruck TV, and Ruck Mentality, each designed by Charles and his team, are designed to help build people up physically, mentally and spiritually.
The Ruck Brand relaunched in 2021 has a renewed energy and indomitable mindset. “Through my experience, I’ve learned no matter how bad things might get, to never give up,” Charles says. “My journey has been everything but easy or smooth. I will say God has never left me or forsaken me. He continues to give me strength and growth. I truly believe he gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.”
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In bodybuilding and men’s physique, there is a lot of self-focus due to a large amount of it being all about your physical development, conditioning, and presentation. That type of focus, along with the countless hours Charles has spent to cultivate his show-winning physique, is what made the man he is today.
Ask his coach and training partner, Courtney English, who has been training with Charles on and off for a few years. The two are very 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 Courtney does ten of something, Charles does 11 and vice versa, they’re always pushing each other to get to the next level.