CANTON, Mo. (BVM) – Andrew Rupcich got the opportunity of a lifetime this past week as he stepped foot in the legendary Rose Bowl stadium to kick off his hectic upcoming NFL prospect schedule at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. For a senior used to playing at the NAIA level, the moment allowed Rupcich to show his ability on the football field in front of hundreds of scouts.
“The biggest question mark from scouts over the last few months of meeting with them and talking with them is the level of competition I went against going from NAIA to playing against Division I guys,” Rupcich said. “I wanted to show that no matter who I was going against, I was going to compete well.”
The 6-foot-6 offensive tackle from Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri did just that as he competed against players from some of the top Division I programs in the nation. Along with the heightened competition, Rupcich got the chance to learn under an impressive coaching staff, led by former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and Hall of Fame lineman and offensive line coach Jackie Slater.
“It was crazy to see what an NFL head coach is like,” Rupcich said. “He’s (Lewis) very cool mannered, knows when to talk, knows how to speak to people and how to address the room and kind of that sense of respect that everyone had for him was kind of insane.
“He walked into the room, and everything went silent and everyone was listening to him. It was all business there as soon as he walked in the room. Overall, just getting to talk to him and pick his brain was a fun experience.”
Rupcich has seen his draft stock shoot up since first arriving as a little–known recruit out of McHenry West High School in McHenry, Illinois. After only receiving interest as a walk-on at the Division I level, Rupcich would land at Culver-Stockton where he became one of the school’s most accomplished players after a changed mindset in the weight room. Following his senior year, Rupcich became the first three-time All-American at the same position in the NAIA.
With his playing time spent primarily at offensive tackle throughout his college career (aside from a trick play at quarterback that went viral during his sophomore season), Rupcich would find himself inside during the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. With only two guards and two centers on the roster and six total offensive tackles, Rupcich decided it was best for his stock to show scouts he could play multiple positions during his week in Pasadena.
“The biggest thing was showing versatility,” Rupcich said. “In the NFL, you only get about eight guys you can bring that can travel every week and they’re going to take the most versatile. So, the biggest point was just showing that I can play more than just tackle. I can play guard, I can play center and I can play where I need to.”
As Rupcich wrapped up his week out west, it was easy to see the impact he’s left at his now alma-mater. With a host of former coaches and family in attendance, the former Wildcats’ star had quite the fan section in attendance.
“The connection I’ve built up at Culver–Stockton is amazing,” Rupcich said. “My coaches are like family… I always have their support.”
With the Collegiate Bowl now behind him, Rupcich is ready to kick off what should be a busy next couple of months. He accepted an invitation to the NFL Combine at the end of January and has been busy training at the EXOS facility down in Frisco, Texas, for a little over a month now. His days are now consumed with preparation for the combine as he works to put himself in the best position possible for the March event.
Getting the rare NAIA invite to the combine has continued Rupcich’s ‘surreal’ last couple of months. As he aims for a chance to make an NFL roster next fall, he can only look back at just how far things have come for him since he stepped foot on campus at Culver-Stockton.
“Coming out of high school, I would not have thought I would have been in the position I am today,” Rupcich said. “Being the first person from my [college] to be able to do this stuff is just more of a pride thing [than anything else.] Going to the NFLPA game, that’s something that’s never been done for my school… and I got my combine invite so that was an extra thing added on there, too. So, just all together it’s been really surreal.
“[It’s] like a dream come true and it’s been a grind. I’ve led up my whole life for this, so this is where I need to be and I can’t stop now.”
Editors note: Andrew Rupcich signed with the Tennessee Titans following the NFL draft.