When Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker was 15, his father told him the secret to success.
“My dad said that it’s so important to be well rounded and to work hard. He said, ‘Being good at a lot of things requires a lot of hard work, and being the best at one thing requires the most hard work’,” Tucker says. “That really stuck with me.”
Tucker took his father’s advice and now ranks as the most accurate NFL kicker in history, and was recently named the best NFL kicker of all time by NFL.com. Tucker thinks nothing of blasting 70-yard field goals, has been selected to two Pro Bowls and First Team All-Pro twice in his six years in the NFL, and was instrumental in the Ravens’ 2013 Super Bowl win during his rookie season.
Justin Tucker has the well-rounded part down pat, too. A classically trained opera singer who can sing in seven different languages, he is a strong advocate for the arts and has sung in several Royal Farms commercials.
He is also a genuinely nice guy with a habit of spontaneously bursting into song and a knack for celebrity impersonations.
But sitting at the top of Tucker’s unending list of accomplishments: fatherhood. “Family is at the center of everything for me,” Tucker says.
Married to his college sweetheart Amanda Bass Tucker, the couple welcomed a son, Easton, in 2016 and is creating the same kind of happy childhood for him that they experienced growing up in Texas. We sat down with the Tucker family to discuss football, family time, and why they love their life in Baltimore.
How did you meet?
AT: We met through a friend at freshman orientation at the University of Texas and dated all through college. We’ve been together ten years this fall.
JT: Amanda didn’t really care that I was low on the football totem pole at the time [laughs].
Can you tell me a little about your family life?
AT: We are very lucky that both of our parents were always involved in our lives growing up and are so supportive. My mom and dad shared responsibilities in the parenting and we are doing the same—I think Justin changes more diapers than I do! [laughs].
JT: Our parents really instilled family values and they play a big role in our lives. We want to create the kind of family where Easton feels loved and supported.
Has fatherhood changed you?
JT: Now that I’m a dad, I really think about what Easton would think about the way that I carry myself. I wonder about how he would view what I do and what I say. It’s made me think about the example I want to set for him. We have also learned to prioritize everything in our lives, especially the time management.
You spend a lot of time on the road—is it hard to be gone so much?
AT: I don’t go to away games anymore and Justin gets home the day after games so it can be tough.
JT: It definitely gets harder to leave as [Easton’s] getting bigger and he’s talking more. He’ll say ‘Daddy go kick or play football.’ He runs to the door when he hears me come home. He has a better idea now when I’m traveling. And that’s really hard because I just want to be with him all the time.
What are your favorite things to do together as a family?
AT: We spend a lot of time outside because it’s Easton’s favorite thing to do.
JT: We like to get outside, take walks, go to the park, go to the aquarium, and we love to visit the JFX farmers market on the weekends.
What do you love about your adopted hometown?
AT: We lived in the city before Easton [was born] and we tried lots of restaurants and would go to O’s games and see the city and truly explore. We have a great life here with a lot of friends and we are living it the same way we would if Justin wasn’t playing football. We really love it here.
What do you love about Ravens fans?
JT: Where do I start? One thing that has always stood out to me about the city and Ravens fans is that people here know sports and they really love their birds. People in Baltimore work really hard and they enjoy the reprieve they can get from the everyday grind by coming to watch their birds play. We as Ravens players can definitely feel that and appreciate it.
Growing up in Texas, I’m sure football had a large presence in your life?
JT: Football has always been a part of my life. Where I grew up (Austin), businesses shut down on Friday nights. My high school alone had 3,000 kids and our stadium sat 15,000—and it would be full. For a sixteen-year-old kid to play in front of a crowd that big, it was something.
I read that you were a soccer player until you were 14. What made you switch?
JT: In soccer I was kicking the ball too hard over the goal post and someone finally said to me, ‘You know, you can get points for that playing football’ [laughs]. So I started in 8th grade and I learned to love it very quickly and never looked back.
How did that help your future as a kicker?
JT: Soccer gave me years and years of developing a leg swing and the talent to match my foot up to a ball. It also gives you a stamina component that I was able to apply to a football field. Playing soccer you have to run the entire time but football is more stop and go.
Youth football is in the news a lot with a focus on concussions—do you have any thoughts on this?
JT: There is risk with any sport and I think parents should always use their best judgment to determine what’s best for their child. And flag football is an excellent alternative for kids all the way up to
Will Easton be allowed to play?
JT: When I was growing up my parents drove me to everything I asked them to, and I was lucky that from a young age, I got to find out a lot about myself and what I really like to do. We are going to encourage him in a variety of interests so he can find out what he likes.
AT: Easton needs to be a kid; you don’t want your kids to be burned out. If he has an interest in something that is completely different than what we do, we will encourage him.
What do you think about kids focusing on one sport at an early age?
JT: Parents who pressure their kids with sports, I have to say that I feel the exact opposite about that topic. So many of the professional athletes playing right now have played several different sports all the way through high school and it will make you a better athlete. But I also understand the idea that when you’re young you want to find out what you’re good at.
How did you discover your love of music? Have you passed it on to Easton?
JT: My mom is musical and my dad has a real appreciation for music. I started playing trumpet in the middle school band and found that I loved the highly technical side of music, while also appreciating the subjective side of fine arts. In college when I decided to be a music major, I had to audition with a principal instrument, and so I decided to use my voice. I thought I wanted to do music production, but singing made me fall back in love with music again.
AT: Easton loves it when Justin brings out the guitar and sings to him. We are definitely trying to pass that on to him.
You talk a lot about being well rounded. Why do you think this is important?
JT: I can’t tell you how many guys on our team have a wide array of interests; it goes beyond athletics and so many guys on the team have an appreciation for music, the arts, lots of things. It’s interesting—so many people think of pro athletes as only that. I don’t just play football and neither do most of the guys I play with.
You manage to do many things very, very well. What’s your idea of success?
JT: I have definitely found that working hard will lead to success. But for me, success also means generally being a happy person. Success is about making everyone around you better just by being there and being you.
Photos by Dunks Photo