Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images
JUSTIN TUCK RETIRES AS A NEW YORK GIANT…
Defensive end Justin Tuck retired from the NFL on Friday as a New York Giant. The 33-year old Tuck was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Giants and played nine seasons (2005-2013) with the team. He played his final two seasons with the Oakland Raiders (2014-2015). Tuck finished unofficially in 10th place on the team’s all-time sack list with 60.5. He won two Super Bowl rings with the team during the 2007 and 2011 seasons.
The Giants prepared a video tribute for Tuck shown before his retirement press conference remarks.
The following is the transcript from his press conference (Giants.com video):
Opening Statement: I think all of you guys know that I don’t like writing speeches. I’ll go from the heart on this one. First of all, thank you. I think every time something like this happens the first thing the guy says is like, ‘I’m not going to cry.’ I won’t say that. I’m not going to cry, but you make it tough. Driving here today, me and Pat Hanlon were talking about dates for about a month now. Everybody on social media kept hitting me up about what’s taking so long? Why isn’t he retiring as a Giant? It’s funny. You all use the word ‘retirement,’ but I’ve been busier now than I have been when I was playing. I’m not going to use the word ‘retirement’. I’m going to say I’m transitioning, but what a hell of a place to transition from.
In 2005 I started my journey here. I don’t see coach Merritt back there, but he can tell you the story about… There he is. He can tell you the story about the first day of minicamp. I see my rookies out there and you all are going to go through it, too. First day of minicamp and everybody is smiling and happy to be there. You’re walking around and you’re seeing the great names in the locker room with LT (Lawrence Taylor) and you look over in the corner and you’ve got Michael Strahan and here’s this pup from Kellyton, Alabama and they gave me number 91. I’m sitting at my locker and I’m pissed. Coach Merritt looks at me and he’s like, ‘Did somebody die in your family? What’s wrong with you?’ What I told him and I’ve held that chip on my shoulder since that day and I told him there were 70 something odd people drafted before me that shouldn’t have been. I believed it. Until this day, I’ve used that as a crutch. I’ve used that as a chip.
Now I’m getting ahead of myself because a lot of times when you write stuff down and you have all of these little details about what you want to say, it sounds good. But right now I’m reminiscing about all of the times here – good, bad and ugly and indifferent that made this place special. God truly blessed me. We have a saying around here in football and it’s you outkicked your coverage. For all of you that know about Kellyton, Alabama, I hold that in my heart because that’s what made me who I am. Two hundred seventy-one people in Kellyton, Alabama. There’s almost more in this auditorium right now, right? Two hundred seventy-one people and to come from there and go to a school like Notre Dame, I outkicked my coverage. From there to getting drafted by the New York Giants, I outkicked my coverage. To marry this beautiful woman you see in front of me (wife Lauran) and to have these two little bigheaded boys (Jayce and Jonah), I outkicked my coverage. And now to retire a Giant, I’ve outkicked my coverage. I couldn’t script this day any better.
It’s typical of playing football in East Rutherford. It’s raining outside, it’s cold and it’s windy. I’ve had some good days in that type of weather. Today is more about, honestly, it’s more about you guys. It’s not about Justin Tuck. I’ll tell you why. Without the Mara family, there is no Justin Tuck. Rest his soul, Wellington Mara. He laid the foundation for this organization for what you see here today. Rumor has it I had the opportunity to be his last pick. Speaking about outkicking your coverage. There’s a reason why that guy’s name is on the football. The Duke.
To get to work with the Mara family, the Tisch family, Mr. Reese. The list goes on and on – from the equipment staff to the doctors and Ronnie Barnes and his crew, (Joseph) Skiba and his crew. There’s no Justin Tuck without all of these that I’ve mentioned. The Michael Strahans, the Eli Mannings, the Osi Umenyioras, the Jason Pierre-Pauls, the Zak DeOssies, that entire O-Line from ’07, which I think is the best o-line to ever play the game, in my opinion, because I got to face them every day. Kareem McKenzie. (Chris) Snee. David (Diehl). Rich (Seubert). (Shaun) O’Hara. Everybody asks what’s the hardest O-Line that you’ve faced. The guys I had to go against in practice. Why do you think the game was so easy? Why do you think that D-Line was so good all of those years? Because we had to go against those guys? What’s the record for Eli? Eli has got about 180 something games without missing a start because he had those monsters in front of him and I had to play against them every day.
I’m thankful guys. I’m thankful my agent Doug Hendrickson going to bat for me from day one to today. Rebecca Otto, Jen (?)… I’m thankful. I can go on and on and on about how special this place has been for me. I can go on and on about what people have done for me in my life to make the man that stands before you today. In this organization, we talk a lot about football and on the field stuff, but this organization has really laid the foundation and given me a platform to do so much of the stuff that we do off of the field. The Tuck’s Rush for Literacy platform. That doesn’t get off the ground without all of the communication with the community (relations) department, Mr. Mara himself being in the forefront. Coach Coughlin, oh my goodness. What could a guy ask for better than that?
I would be remiss if I didn’t say, ‘thank you, Oakland Raiders.’ Thank you Mark Davis and that complete staff out there. But it’s good to come home. It’s tremendously good to come home. Things haven’t changed in my life to the point where you won’t see me around. They say retire, but I’m not retiring. I normally wouldn’t talk about this here, but the reason why I don’t call this a retirement… one of the reasons why I don’t call it a retirement is because I’ve decided to take my talents to a city a little south of here down 95. Yes, I’m talking about Philadelphia. If you think for a moment that I’m talking about that green team, you should be ashamed of yourself. But what I’m talking about is I just got into Wharton and I’m going to get my MBA. Without the experience I’ve had here and without the people that I got to look at every day when I was in these halls and in this locker room and these conference rooms, I don’t even have a sense of any of that stuff that I could do.
When I got drafted here all I thought about was sacking quarterbacks and being a guy that they could look at and say he did it the right way. That’s the only legacy I ever cared about and to this day, that’s the only thing I ever care about. So to see what some of my former teammates said about me… I couldn’t care less about Super Bowl rings and I couldn’t care less about quarterback sacks or any of that stuff. When guys talk to you about your character and talk to you about friendship and they talk to you about the memories in the locker room or on the road trips – that’s what I’ll remember. To my dying day, that’s what I will remember.
I had the opportunity to do an interview a couple of days ago with Bob Papa and we had a conversation about looking at the championship banners and we made a friendly bet and then he said, ‘I bet you can’t name all of the players that played in Super Bowl 46 and 42.’ I one-upped him and I said, ‘Not only can I name them, I can name the colleges that they went to’ and I did. That just lets you know the bond is strong. For all of you guys that never strapped it up and got the opportunity to play with guys that started out as a teammate and become brothers, you might not understand what I am saying here today. You might not understand why I’m filled with gratitude and humbled at the same time that in a way it’s over, but it’s not. Just like JPP said, I’ll be on the sidelines. He still calls me to this day, along with Zak, Eli and Vic (Cruz). They still call me to this day in situations and ask me how would I do it. I’m like I didn’t have a magic key. I was making it up as I was going, too, but I had so many great people before me and I tell Eli the same thing. You have so many great people before you that walk these halls every day. I’m a guy that always looks at unsung heroes. You all remember him because he caught a football on the top of his head, but David Tyree has been a mentor to me in all of life, not just on the field. I remember when guys like Dave Tollefson, you couldn’t get that guy to say no to anything when it came to helping somebody else out. You always remember the greats, but I’ll always remember each and every last one of them for what they meant to this team, what they meant to this organization, what they meant to me personally.
Before I start crying, I’m going to hurry up and sit down because words don’t express how I feel about this organization. This is not Justin Tuck’s day. It’s not. I don’t want any of you guys writing that and to say that. This is just another day in the history of the New York Giants. Another day of the collective effort of everybody in this family taking a young pup from Nowhere, Alabama and making him into the man you see here today.
My mom and my dad couldn’t make it today. My mom doesn’t like flying. But if I was going to tell you guys anything that you can say something about my legacy is something that she told me a long time ago. She told me there will never be a time that you’ll regret if in the process you give 100 percent. I think I gave it 100 percent and that’s me looking in the mirror. I think I gave 100 percent, but I don’t have any regrets. I don’t.
I love you guys, man. To the media, I love you guys. I know a lot of times it didn’t sound like that and you might not have gotten that vibe, but you all gave me a huge platform as well to get my story out there. Pat Hanlon probably likes me saying that. Thank you. I can’t say that enough. Spags… After you told me backstage about it, I wasn’t going to say it, but Spags, I’m thankful. You gave me an opportunity to play every position on the defensive side of the ball except one. Every time I see him I remind him of it. That’s a trivia question for you. Everybody talks about the Super Bowl sacks, but did you know the only position Justin Tuck didn’t play on defense was safety? It was the only one and for good reason, because when he put me at cornerback I didn’t do it right.
Coach Coughlin, I know you’re not here today, but thank you. A lot of the young guys look at coaches and are saying no way they want them to be their best friend. Coach McAdoo, don’t be a player’s best friend. The one thing I learned from Coach Coughlin is this. I’m going to push you and I’m going to push you. I don’t care if you don’t like it. But the one thing that he demanded and he definitely got because he deserved it was the respect of his players. I’m not surprising anybody by saying this. We didn’t like Coach Coughlin, but you better not say anything bad about him. Not in my presence. That goes for all the rest of our coaches. And one of the reasons why I’ll never be a coach is because I see these guys when I came in at 5 a.m. and they were already in there. If I had an event and I had to drive past the stadium on Route 3 at 10 o’clock going home and you look to your left and you see the lights on, those coaches were still there. You wonder why we were so prepared. You always talk about talent. Talent has got nothing to do with it.
My rookies have left, but I wanted to say this and I hope they see this when I say this. Those guys that are drafted to the New York Giants, all that means is that you have an opportunity. Nothing is going to be given to you. Nothing. Me and Jerry Reese don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but he doesn’t even know that he helped me out a lot. I’ll tell you why and this is why nothing is given to you. When I came in here, I had a Hall of Famer in front of me. I had a young stud in front of me. The next year they drafted a first round pick. The next year they drafted a first round pick. Nothing is ever given to you. You can be the strongest and the meanest and the best ever, but you always have got to come in here and you’ve got to fight. That’s for my rookies, and I hope they see that. I always come in here and fight. I’m tired of what I’ve seen from the New York Giants the last three years and I was a part of it because maybe I faltered in my way of being a better leader and allowed some things to go on that didn’t necessarily have to go on. I say this and I’m going to sit down. I am super excited about what’s next. I’m super excited of what I see from this young group of guys.
I normally don’t give shout-outs to rookies, but I’m going to give one because he might be smarter than the education normally lends him to be from Ohio State. About a couple of days ago, the other Eli (Apple) called me. It was funny because I look at the number and I’m wondering who is this. He starts talking about he wants to learn how to be successful in New York. Eli, you might be onto something.
I will do everything in my power to always be the character that Mr. Mara can be proud of, that Jerry Reese and Steve Tisch and all of those guys can be proud of. As I step off this podium today, I’m not leaving. I’m just exiting. If you ever need me, and I’m talking to everybody in here and I always say this, but I always mean it – if you ever need me, my number, my e-mail hasn’t changed and it won’t. God bless you guys and God keep you. Go Giants.
Q: Not many players go to get their MBA after they retire. You could have probably gone on to do a lot of things without that. What do you hope to do with it?
A: I think for me personally, I knew I wanted to — and everything I do I want to be prepared, I want to be really prepared and a lot of things that I have come in contact with this being in New York in the finance space, I guess, points me to that direction of getting my MBA and if I am going to get it, I am going to go and try to do it at the best university there is and I don’t know if you checked, but Wharton is number one, so that is why. That almost gives me another chance to take a shot at Boston College, Mr. Mara, but I am not going to do it. I am not going to do it. I might.
Q: Justin, the end of your speech there was a very captain-like address to the future players of this team. Was that important to you to sort of give them a message going forward?
A: You should hear what I tell them in person. Strahan told me something when he was getting ready to depart. He said, ‘The only reason why I feel confident in leaving is because I know I am leaving (this) in good hands.’ I want to have the same sentiment going forward and I think Jason Pierre-Paul is going to shock a lot of people this year and that is not because of anything that you have seen but just in the conversations I have had with him and I am challenging him and he is not the only one. I am challenging Vic (Cruz), I am challenging these guys that I know have that ability to step up and kind of be the missing piece that maybe the Giants are missing.
Q: You have been passionate for your Rush for Literacy program. Was there a specific reason you chose literacy.
A: The United States is 26th in education. Me and my wife are very passionate about kids and education and we knew that was something that we could not only get behind and write a check to but go visit schools and have conversations with parents and teachers about. What is the missing link? How can we make this better? We knew education was super important to us. You know, unlike going to Boston College, we went to Notre Dame, so we actually got one and we have seen the benefits of it, so yeah. I am so glad I am going to get the last say (today). (BC Alum) Mr. Mara isn’t speaking out against me, right? Okay, good.
Q: Did you have one single favorite memory on this team?
A: I think a lot of times when people ask that type of question, the recipient of the question literally tries to pick out one play or moment and it is impossible, it really is. I can sit here and name 60 plays or 60 moments that have, probably, equal amount of influence on me as a person, so I won’t even try to name one. I will answer your question by saying the year we won Super Bowl 46 will be as memorable as anything ever just because of personal ups and downs, team ups and downs. I lost a grandfather and three uncles in that season and was battling with injuries throughout the year and somehow God smiled down on us and we all righted the ship at the right time and we won another improbable Super Bowl, so that season. I stay awake a lot thinking about that season and remembering small pockets of moments that other people might not remember but that affected us for the good that year, so I hope that justifies a correct answer to your question.
Q: You had an opportunity to go elsewhere, a little taste of another organization. In retrospect, what was it about here that was sort of special to you?
A: Well, I mean I think why I will remember the Giants as being special is because there is really not another place that has the combination of being in New York City, having the fan base that we have, getting the opportunity to work with the football minds that I got the opportunity to work with from top to bottom and it is a classy organization. ‘Classy’ gets thrown around a little bit too much but it is a classy organization, they do it right from top to bottom and I can’t be prouder or more excited to represent an organization like that and you know, my time in Oakland was great as well, but it is nothing like home. You can’t compare it. I love New York City, I love New Jersey, I love the surrounding areas but for me, there is no place like Kellyton, Alabama. That will always be home and in my football sense, this will always be home.
Q: Justin, will it be a test of your sense of humor going down to get your MBA in Philadelphia, with all those green jerseys around?
A: Well, you have to understand something. I married my wife eight years ago and we dated about five years before that, so it has been about 13, 14 years. Her mother’s father started the, am I saying this right, he started the Eagles booster club, so as you can imagine, I have had a lot of practice. I have had about 14 years of practicing and to my credit, the last eight years there haven’t been too many Eagles jerseys floating around that house, so you can thank me for that, Mr. Mara. We have a few more Giants fans down that way, but it is going to be interesting. For me, they don’t want to get into that conversation with me for two reasons. I will use two just as a starting point just because obviously there are a lot more than just two. I don’t wear them, but you get the gist. It is something that they don’t have, so if you want to get in a conversation about Giants vs. Eagles, or Cowboys or Redskins, for that matter either, I think I can win that argument.
Q: Do you like the idea that you are transitioning as a young group is starting here and did they ask you to take five minutes today to talk to them as a group?
A: I think Coach McAdoo is very respectful for my time at this moment and he has hinted to being a little involved going forward, when the whole group is here. It is ironic that I know a few of the young guys that came in, so I have already had a few run in’s and conversations with them. Like I said, obviously school will take up a few moments of my time and few is an understatement, but I am around. I mean it when I say it, if they need me in any capacity, I am pretty much willing to help out.
Q: What was your conversation with Eli Apple like?
A: I’ll tell you one snippet and I’ll leave it at that. I told him just to focus on football. That is very generic about that conversation, but just to focus on football. Being in New York can be overwhelming, especially for a guy that is named Eli, for one but just to focus on his craft and he will be just fine. This place embraces a winner, so just go out and win.
Q: If these rookies are talking tonight and they say, what do you think Justin Tuck’s legacy will be? What would your answer be?
A: That is not for me to answer. I know what I want it to be and I mentioned it. The only legacy that I care about is people, years from now, saying that he did it the right way. I never really cared about stats or anything of that nature. I think that the legacy of a lot of the guys here is cemented in the fact that we won two Super Bowls and that is the first thing that people are going to say, but we got some great guys in that locker room, on and off the field, and that is the only thing I can ask for. It is more important for me to see a kid smiling because he got an A on his report card than it is for me to do any of the other stuff, so I hope that is something that they will say.
Q: You mentioned that the 2011 season was a memorable one. Considering everything you went through, did you maybe need more lifting from your teammates than at other times in your career?
A: I am super proud of what my teammates gave me when I was here and for me to be the captain of this football team was pretty easy, to be honest with you. We really didn’t have guys that required me getting phone calls at 12 or 2 o’clock in the morning, anything like that. We had some clowns, and I think every football team does and I think that added to the character of the guys in that locker room. I think what I needed was what I got and that was a real heart to heart with Coach Coughlin midway through the season, to stop feeling sorry for yourself because there was some heartache that had happened. I needed that tough love and it helped and I think that helped me elevate my play. I think that is what the team needed. They needed me to elevate my play, not the other way around.
Q: Justin, before the Giants play the Cowboys twice this year, can I call you up and you can tell me you hate them?
A: You can run that story for years and years to come. That will not change. That will not change. That is a good one. I like that one.
GIANTS.COM Q&A WITH JUSTIN TUCK…
The video of an exclusive interview of Justin Tuck is available at Giants.com.