Former C-SC lineman Rupcich makes NFL debut for Tennessee
QUINCY (WGEM) - Andrew Rupcich knew his time would come.
His time came last Sunday when the former Culver-Stockton College All-American offensive lineman made his NFL regular season debut for the Tennessee Titans during a 20-6 loss at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I was just like other kids growing up who dreamed of playing professional sports,” Rupcich said Monday during the team’s off day. “So yeah, it was a surreal moment for me for sure.”
Rupcich, who was activated to the game-day roster for the first time in two seasons, entered the game at the start of the second quarter after another injury-hit the Titans already-ravaged interior line.
Tennessee (3-6) had already lost Nicholas Petit-Frere and Daniel Brunskill to injuries in the previous game causing the merry-go-round up front to continue.
During the game, Dillon Radunz moved from right guard to left tackle and Rupcich entered the contest at right guard after Andre Dillard left with a concussion.
“I felt a little nervous but also knew I was ready,” Rupcich entering the game as an injury replacement. “Every week the coaches tell us to prepare like we are a starter so I knew from a mental point I was ready.”
Rupcich, just one of three C-SC players to play in the NFL, was involved in 45 offensive snaps and did not allow a sack or be called for a penalty even though Tennessee’s offense struggled against Tampa’s defense, compiling just 209 yards of total offense behind rookie quarterback Will Levis.
“Personally, it was OK,” Rupcich said of how he felt he performed. “There was some good stuff and stuff I have to continue to improve upon.”
This year, the NFL has implemented a rule that allows teams to elevate up to two players per week from the practice squad to increase the game-day rosters to 55. Afterward, the team may return the two players elevated to the roster back to the practice squad without exposing them to waivers.
So last week the Titans made Rupcich and defensive end T.K. McLendon their standard gameday elevations.
That meant Rupcich finally had an opportunity to play in a regular-season game.
“I was excited,” Rupcich said when informed he’d be active for Sunday’s game. “It’s something I was looking forward to my entire life. You dream about being out on that field on a Sunday.”
Prior to the season opener, Rupcich was placed on waivers as Tennessee got down to the mandatory 53-man regular season roster. After clearing waivers, Rupcich was one of 16 players signed to the team’s practice squad several days later.
Rupcich, 24, a three-time NAIA All-American at C-SC, signed a free-agent contract in May 2022 to be a member of the Tennessee’s practice squad.
He was not on the Titans’ active roster in 2022 for any of their 17 games during a disappointing 7-10 season that ended with seven straight losses.
However, in January, Rupcich was one of eight players the Titans signed to reserves/futures contracts and then reported to training camp in late July.
Rupcich had a small cheering section rooting him on at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
“My dad, stepmom, grandpa, and uncle where there to watch,” Rupcich said. “I also had some buddies from college who were from the Tampa area at the game as well.”
They all got to see a dream come true.
HEADLINE: C-SC PLAYERS IN NFL
JASON KAISER (DB)
Kaiser, a 1996 C-SC graduate, was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad on Nov. 3, 1998. On Dec. 17, he was promoted to the active roster to make his NFL debut against the New York Giants on Dec. 20. On Sept. 5, 1999, he was released and later signed to the practice squad.
On Dec. 22, 1999, he was signed by the Dallas Cowboys from the Chiefs’ practice squad. He was declared inactive in two games, before seeing his first action in the NFC Wild Card game against the Minnesota Vikings, playing in the nickel defense, while tallying one tackle on each defense and special teams. He was released on Aug. 21, 2000.
BOB HENDREN (OT)
Bob Hendren enrolled at Culver-Stockton College in 1942 before transferring to the University of Southern California.
Hendren, a tackle, was selected by the Washington Redskins in the 17th round (59th overall) of the 1946 NFL Draft. He played three seasons in the NFL for the Redskins.
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