Growing up in a small town in central Pennsylvania, Ross Tucker had big dreams to play in the National Football League. A graduate of Princeton University, Tucker was a four-year starter on the Tigers Ivy League football squad. He started against Colgate University as a freshman at defensive end and in the offseason was moved to right guard where he became a starter his final three years. Tucker was All-Ivy in 2000 and a two-time Academic All-American at Princeton.
Tucker was signed by the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent in 2001. He has also played for the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns.
Tucker is currently a journalist for Sports Illustrated and a host on Sirius NFL Radio Channel 124. Tucker will also be calling NFL games all seventeen weeks of the season in 2009 for the Sports USA Radio Network in addition to doing three college games for both YES and VERSUS. He is also the co-founder and CEO of GoBigRecruiting.com, which is a website for high school athletes to submit their highlight tapes to universities.
I had the great opportunity to interview Ross about the 2009 Bills and his time spent with the organization.
Buffalo Sports Daily: Take me through your mindset in 2001 when you were about to enter the NFL. Did you expect to be drafted? What teams were you talking to?
Ross Tucker: I was thrilled to even have the opportunity to be in a mini-camp and have a shot at my dream. Most undrafted free agents are angry because they expected to be drafted and are disappointed. I was just the opposite. I knew I wasn’t going to be drafted and I was just hoping that I would have a shot to put on an NFL uniform and compete against the best players in the world and see whether or not I belonged. I had already accepted a job on Wall Street in case I never got a chance at pro football. The only other team I remember having a lot of dialogue with was the Cincinnati Bengals.
BSD: You were with the Bills for the 2003 & 2004 seasons. Take me inside the locker room of that team and describe your time there with the Bills. Also, touch on the loss to the Steelers in the final game.
RT: I really enjoyed my time in Buffalo and look back on those years more fondly than any other during my career. I really liked the guys on the team. We got along extremely well and hung out together often. I think because of the nature of the city of Buffalo, there is much more of a college feel among the team and players spend a lot of time with each other and their respective families. Other teams that I was on are not like that.
The Steelers game was tough. We knew we had an opportunity that we hadn’t taken advantage of after the Jets lost. We had started out so poorly going 0-4 and then rallied to get to 9-6, including winning a number of games in a row at the end, yet we couldn’t beat a Steelers team that had already clinched home field advantage on our own home field. It was disappointing because we just didn’t play very well in any phase of the game and quite frankly didn’t deserve to win. That was a bitter pill to swallow because it would have meant so much to the people of Buffalo and to us to win that game, get to 10 wins, and have a chance in the playoffs.
BSD: It’s been rumored that the veterans on those Bills teams were furious when J.P. Losman took over the starting job from Drew Bledsoe. Is this true?
RT: I think furious is probably too strong a word but there is no doubt that most of the guys were less than pleased. It was kind of hard to understand. We had just rallied from an 0-4 start to go 9-3 over our final 12 games. We felt like we had a good team and some momentum and it was a bit disheartening to hear that we were going to make a change at the quarterback position. Drew had played pretty well and was well liked on the team and it was hard to imagine that J.P. would be able to have a real good year in his first season as a starter. This was before Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco did what they did last year obviously. I don’t think many people were thrilled to hear the news but you just move on and deal with it.
It just would have made so much more sense to bring Drew back and see how we did. If we started to struggle or things weren’t going well, it seems to me as if they could have gone with J.P at that point. Doing it in the offseason like they did really took the wind out of a lot of guys’ sails.
BSD: Take me through your feelings on the 2009 Bills and their coaching staff. If they fail to make the playoffs this season, is it time to clear out the front office and coaching staff and get a new regime in?
RT: I don’t know if it is necessary to clean out the front office but clearly what the organization has been doing isn’t working and it will be time to make some changes if this season goes poorly. It just seems like they can never put it all together at the same time. When the offensive line is playing well, they lack enough talent at the skill positions. When the skill is playoff-caliber, the line is rebuilding.
I never like blanket statements like “if they fail to make the playoffs … then …. should happen”. I think you let the season run its course and make evaluations at the end based upon how the team finishes and what you see from individual players and coaches in terms of their productivity and improvement.
BSD: Who could you forsee as the next head coaching candidates if Jauron is let go sometime during this season or after the season?
RT: I don’t care to speculate on who I could see becoming the new head coach. That is unfair to Dick Jauron and his staff.
BSD: Take me through 2007 when you got that call from the Redskins after the neck injury. I know you got the call while standing in line at Subway. Take us through the emotions you felt when you knew you played your last downs in the NFL.
RT: It was tough. You know, other than my family and close friends, football was and always has been the next most important thing in my life. It was hard not to think about going to games when I was five years old all the way to playing the game for as long as I did. Playing football had always been a big part of my life and to realize in an instant it was over was very difficult. You tell yourself that you can’t play forever and it will end sometime but that doesn’t really make it any easier. I definitely miss it but being involved on the media end of things is really the next best thing that I have found to actually being out there between the white lines.
BSD: Talk to me a little bit about your company GoBig Recruiting. What is it? Where can people go for more information for high school athletes?
RT: We allow high school athletes to submit their game and highlight videos to colleges online instead of sending DVDs through the postal system. So far things have gone extremely well for us at Go Big Recruiting.com as more and more students are signing up on a daily basis and realizing that this is the future of the recruiting process and that the future is now. The best part about Go Big Recruiting.com is that the student-athlete gets an email as soon as his profile and video have been reviewed so that he can have the peace of mind and not have to wonder whether or not the college ever received or reviewed it like if he had sent out a DVD.
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