Former University of Missouri standout center A.J. Ricker came back to his alma mater as an assistant football coach in July of 2014. Ricker joined the staff as offensive line coach, after spending the prior season in the same role at the University of Illinois.
In his first year of guiding the Tiger offensive line, Ricker did well molding a young unit into one that improved over the course of the year and which played a key role in MU’s late-season surge to claim the SEC Eastern Division title.
Despite having just one player return in the same spot he manned in 2013, Ricker’s line paved the way for 5,138 yards of offense in a well-balanced attack that featured 2,648 passing yards and 2,490 rushing yards.
Senior LT Mitch Morse developed into a top-line performer under Ricker’s watch, as Morse was honored as a 2nd-Team All-SEC player by league coaches – marking the first-ever conference recognition for Morse. Morse was invited to participate in the prestigious NFL Combine and is expected to be selected in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft this spring.
The line overcame adversity in the early part of the year when senior starting left guard Anthony Gatti was lost for the year early in the first half of Mizzou’s game with Indiana, and his loss forced a significant reshuffling of the line, which Ricker oversaw and his troops adapted to nicely.
Ricker came to Mizzou with eight years of coaching experience under his belt. He began his coaching resume as a graduate assistant at Western Michigan under former Mizzou assistant Bill Cubit, serving in that role for the 2006 and 2007 seasons, before advancing to a full-time assistant role as offensive line coach in 2008. He moved to St. Joseph’s College (in Rensselaer, Ind.) as offensive line coach in 2009, and served the 2010 season as the program’s head coach before later returning to WMU for the 2011 and 2012 seasons as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator.
Ricker was born in Windsor, Mo., and graduated from high school in Klein, Texas, before coming to Mizzou. He was a 1st-Team All-Big 12 center for Pinkel as a senior in 2003, as part of the first bowl-eligible team at MU since 1998. He started 47 consecutive games at center for the Tigers from 2000-03, which established a record at any position at MU at the time (it now stands 5th-all-time on the MU consecutive starts chart, 2nd among centers). He served as a two-time team captain at Mizzou.
Ricker earned his undergraduate degree from Mizzou in agriculture in 2004. Following his graduation, Ricker signed a free agent contract with the NFL’s Chicago Bears and was allocated to the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe in 2005. In 2006, and for part of 2007, he was a member of the Arena Football League’s Tampa Bay Storm before retiring from his playing days. In 2011, he was married to the former Lauren Mattaliano, and the couple has an infant son, Andrew, who was born in February of 2014.