EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — It seemed appropriate that Justin Tuck ended his NFL career on a day the New York Giants had their draft picks, free agents and guys looking to make the team on a tryout in the building.
It was transition time for both, although Tuck had so much to offer the youngsters.
The kids could have easily looked at the defensive end taken in the third round in 2005 out of Notre Dame as a model of success. He was a two-time Super Bowl champion, a two-time Pro Bowler and a captain of the defense.
That’s the surface of Tuck, the things that can be found in any biography.
“The only legacy I care about is people years from now saying: ‘He did it the right way,” Tuck said Friday in a retirement news conference. “I have never cared about stats, or anything of that nature.”
Tuck signed a one-day contract to retire as a Giant. He spent his first nine seasons with New York, winning Super Bowls in February 2008 and ’12, beating the odds, the New England Patriots and Tom Brady both times. He spent his last two seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
Speaking from the heart with his wife sitting in front of him and his two young sons sometimes sharing the podium with him, the 33-year from tiny Kellyton, Alabama, recalled a career that had its up and downs, success and failures and relationships with teammates that will last forever.
“I could care less about Super Bowl rings, I could care less about quarterback sacks,” Tuck said. “When guys talk to you about your character, talk to you about friendship, talk to you about memories on the road trips, that’s what I’ll remember. To my dying day, that’s what I’ll remember.”
It was a career that Tuck played with a chip on his shoulder, resulting from being drafted 74th overall. He felt he deserved to be picked a lot higher.
“The thing I liked about Justin was that he never got frazzled,” said Steve Spagnuolo, the Giants’ current defensive coordinator and man who ran the defense when Tuck won his first Super Bowl. “You brought up the point that he was a backup, but he really wasn’t a backup. We had three starters. But he wasn’t the guy that went out there first. That never bothered him. All he wanted to do was win.”
Tuck, who plans to attend the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to get a master’s degree in finance, took time to thank former coach Tom Coughlin, who was replaced by Ben McAdoo after the Giants missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season in 2015.
He also advised McAdoo not to be a player’s best friend.
“The one thing I learned from coach Coughlin is this: I am going to push you and I am going to push you and I am going to push you, and I don’t care if you don’t like it,” Tuck said. “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 anyone by saying this: ‘We didn’t like coach Coughlin.’ But you better not say anything bad about him, especially in my presence.”
Tuck did not talk to the draft picks, free agents and tryout players as a group. He spoke to some individually, including first-round draft pick Eli Apple, a cornerback from Ohio State.
He had advice for all of them.
“Nothing is going to be given to you,” he said. “Nothing.”
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