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High School Football Standout Is Mourned as Part of USC Team

College coach and players join family and friends to remember Drean Rucker, who drowned July 21 off Huntington Beach.

August 05, 2003|Zeke Minaya | Times Staff Writer

Drean Rucker, an All-American linebacker bound for USC, will never play for the Trojans yet will always be part of the team, USC Coach Pete Carroll told mourners Monday.

Rucker's friends, family and teammates gathered for a memorial service at Huntington State Beach where the 18-year-old Moreno Valley Canyon Springs High football standout was caught in rip currents and drowned July 21.

Rucker's family had maintained a five-day vigil at the beach until his body was discovered July 26 about a quarter of a mile west of the Huntington Beach Municipal Pier.

True to his parents' wishes, there was laughter as well as tears among the several hundred mourners Monday morning as the Riverside teen was remembered as a gifted athlete whose powerful physique was matched by a strong character.

"I'm at peace," Rucker's mother, Adrienne Stoker, said as she looked around at the many lives she said that her son had touched. "It doesn't get more beautiful than this."

Blue waves crashed against the nearly deserted beach on the hot, clear morning. Rucker's friends and family clustered in a nearby parking lot, circling a picture of Rucker as mourners took turns at a microphone stand.

"Drean was special," said Doug Dubois, Rucker's high school coach. Fighting back tears, Dubois added: "He's probably looking down saying, 'There goes Coach again, rambling on.' "

Carroll told of the excitement he and his staff felt after Rucker, considered Southern California's top linebacker prospect, called and said "I want to be a Trojan."

Rucker would have worn No. 54, and Carroll said out of respect for Rucker the number will go unused this season. Members of the team presented the uniform to Rucker's parents.

"I'm happy that the team got to go up there and say something," said USC defensive back Marcell Allmond, who led the procession of players. "I just felt that it was necessary being that he is part of our family now forever."

Andre Rucker said he was moved that so many of his son's friends and teammates attended the service. "It is wonderful that God blessed us with people that really cared," he said. "My son lives inside of me."

Stoker recalled July 21, the last day she saw her son. Still in bed, Rucker was late for his day at the beach with friends, she said. She teased him and then, before he left, kissed him and told him that she loved him. "I guess I can rest with that" final memory, Stoker said.

At the end of the service, doves were released. The group then headed to the water's edge between lifeguard Towers 6 and 7 and tossed rose petals into the waves near where Rucker disappeared.

Stoker said later she remembered asking Rucker's girlfriend, who witnessed her son's struggle to get back to shore, if Drean's final moments were desperate ones.

"She said, 'No, he seemed at peace. There was no fear,' " Stoker said.

Switching from the defensive line last season, Rucker led Canyon Springs with 153 tackles, helping the Cougars to a 10-2-1 record and a semi- final appearance in the Southern Section Division V playoffs.

"He was a big guy , with a big heart," Cougars teammate Marco Reeder said. "He was a real good person. I was real blessed to have known him."

Rucker's ashes will be scattered at sea later.

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Times staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.

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