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LSU linebacker Jonathan Rucker (51) on the field, Wednesday, August 23, 2017, at LSU's Charles McClendon Practice Facility in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

The first time Jonathan Rucker went through a work out with LSU, he thought it would be his last.

Rucker was so exhausted after what strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt put him through, the walk-on linebacker didn’t think he had it in him to stay on the team.

The only thing that kept him going was the fear of having to call his mother and tell her he failed.

Four years later, he finally called his mother. But instead of failure, he was able to tell her she wouldn’t have to worry about making tuition payments this year. Rucker is officially a scholarship athlete.

“I wanted to play even if it came with a scholarship or not,” Rucker said. “I managed to do that for almost two seasons, playing without a scholarship. Now that I've been awarded a scholarship, it’s comforting, but to play would be more rewarding to me than having a scholarship.”

Rucker wasn't completely blindsided by the news.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron teased the senior all last week, telling him he “had something for him,” but kept the announcement a secret until after Saturday’s scrimmage.

But by practice Monday, that feeling of excitement quickly turned into pressure of having to step up his game even more.

Rucker keeps a notebook with a list of goals to cross off in his career.

The first was to stay on the team. The second to play special teams in a real game. The third was to earn a scholarship.

Now his goal is to see significant time on defense.

“I think it makes it a little harder now that I’m getting paid (to play),” Rucker said. “Adds a little pressure on me than just being an average walk-on.

“I’ve got to keep on raising the bar. I’ve got a little thing in my notebook to scratch out my goals. Time to write another goal now.”

Rucker has been a contributor on special teams the past two years and received some first-team snaps at inside linebacker because of depth issues in the spring.

He played in five games as a redshirt sophomore in 2015 before a season-ending knee injury. He recorded seven tackles in 2016, all on special teams.

“A guy that’s really had a solid camp, been a solid player for us all year, and I haven’t talked to him about it, is Jonathan Rucker,” Orgeron said Thursday night. “I think Jonathan is going to start on most special teams and can go in there and play for us at linebacker, and we feel very comfortable.”

All-SEC teams

Seven Tigers were named to the preseason All-Southeastern Conference teams on Wednesday as voted on by the league coaches.

Running back Derrius Guice and linebacker Arden Key were the only LSU players selected to the first team.

Guice was also the second-team all-purpose pick, joining offensive linemen KJ Malone and Will Clapp and defensive back Donte Jackson on the SEC’s second tier.

Defensive end Christian LaCouture was named to the third team.

Alabama led the conference with 15 overall selections, including nine on the first team.

Follow Mike Gegenheimer on Twitter, @Mike_Gegs.