We get a kick out of Justin Tucker. He sings opera in seven different languages. He raps freestyle in a Dr Pepper commercial. He does spot-on impersonations of Ray Lewis and Christopher Walken. He geeks out over grammar on Twitter and invites his fans to come “shank golf balls” with him in Patterson Park. He proposed to his fiancée with a finely orchestrated event straight out of an episode of “The Bachelor” (and actually admits to watching Bravo). And by the age of 24, he has already won a Super Bowl and broken the record for the longest kick in a domed stadium (61 yards) among several others. No wonder FOX Sports dubbed Justin Tucker “The Most Interesting Man in the NFL.” And nearly every man, woman and child in Baltimore is crushing on the player who scores bonus “cool” points for his character.
STYLE: You’re just a few months shy of age 25, but you’ve already delivered the commencement speech at your alma mater, the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas. How was that?
JUSTIN TUCKER: Such a huge honor. There’s definitely a parallel between kicking a ball through the uprights in front of thousands of people in a football stadium and preparing yourself to go onstage and perform a piece of music or express yourself through fine arts.
I heard you had a voice professor who was a former pro athlete.
I did. His name is Nikita Storojev and he’s an ex-professional hockey player. Played in Russia for a number of years. He had a completely different way of training his students—and it was pretty intense at times. I’d leave those hour-long voice lessons more exhausted than after a 6 a.m. football workout.
What’s a great first opera or aria to get someone hooked on the genre?
Oh, man. It’s hard to just pick just one. I have a few go-tos as far as performing. I like ‘Nessun Dorma’ from Puccini’s ‘Turandot’— Pavarotti has a great rendition of that one. My favorite is probably ‘The Toreador Song’ from ‘Carmen.’ It’s just such a masculine song. [Makes fist.]
You’ve written about listening to everyone from Frankie Valli to Miley Cyrus.
Yes, a lot of people really like the story of me as an opera singer, but that’s not all there is to me. I listen to every type of that music I can get my hands on—or, rather, put my ears to. I love visual art, too. My fiancée Amanda was an art history major in school and we took a couple of classes together. Ancient Roman art was fascinating.
Would you consider a post-NFL career in music?
Absolutely. It would be great to find a way to combine a business component and a fine arts component, so I could work every part of my brain—left side, right side, cerebral cortex.
So what’s that dream job?
I’d find some land, build a recording studio and manage a record label. Kind of do the Pharrell [Williams] thing, where I’d produce, then hop on a couple tracks, and one will
magically blow up, and before you know it, we will be flying off to the Maldives on a G6.
What car do you drive in this perfect life fantasy?
It would be sick to have a Fisker Karma. They’re totally over the top, but I drove one for a weekend last year and now I’m a huge fan. Mine would be matte white with black wheels.
What’s your personal style? I know you love your custom Indochino suits.
I do. When the pants are just a little too tight to be comfortable, that’s when you know you look good. Around town I like to wear good, clean, raw denim with a white T-shirt and some sweet sneakers. But when we travel with the team, there’s a quiet competition to see who can dress the best.
Do you guys ‘Fashion Police’ each other?
We’ll say stuff like, ‘Yo dog, that’s a sick pocket square.’ Or if somebody’s rocking a mean elbow patch during a game, you let them know. But if one of your teammates is looking real whack, then you’ve got to put it out there, like, ‘Bro, you need to get that suit tailored. You don’t need to wear your daddy’s suit. You’re in the NFL. Buy something that fits.’
You also have great taste in TV—‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Boardwalk Empire.’ What’s your favorite show right now?
‘House of Cards,’ hands down. Kevin Spacey is my favorite actor. We binge-watched both seasons recently. If I saw him, I’d run up and say, ‘Oh oh oh, Frank [Underwood]—I mean, Kevin—I love you!’ I want to plan a power lunch with him at Wit & Wisdom.
I saw you were geeking out over the ‘National Spelling Bee,’ too. Yes! Gokul is so cool. I thought for sure he was going to win. Those kids are so freakin’ smart.
And you admittedly watch ‘Botched’ [the plastic surgery nightmare show] and follow all the ‘Real Housewives’ on Twitter.
Yep, I’m confident enough to own it. Here’s the thing: we’re around football so much at our facilities, right? We meet and practice for hours. The TVs in the cafe-eria are always set on the NFL Network or ESPN—and it’s the same stories recycled over and over throughout the day. Sometimes the specialists will go in there and eat lunch together. And when it’s just a few of us, we change all the channels. Put on Bravo or E! and catch up on our entertainment news.
Are you telling me the Wolfpack sits there watching ‘Millionaire Matchmaker’ together? Because that’s like my dream.
Well, usually I’m the one putting on Bravo. Sam [Koch] and Morgan [Cox] will put on something like the Golf Channel or HGTV. We’re all big ‘House Hunters International’ guys. Recently, ‘Island Hunters’ has become one of our favorites.
On the Ravens website, writer Ryan Mink described you as having a “lovable weirdness” about you. Does that resonate?
A label like ‘weird’ isn’t usually desirable but he puts ‘lovable’ in front of it and it’s supposed to be a compliment, right? I’ve always been a bit of a bigger personality. I try to stay happy and positive in everything I do. I think that resonates well with my friends and teammates—and I have an amazing family and fiancée who support me. No situation, whether it’s on or off the football field, will ever change who I am. So I guess if you want to call it my lovable weirdness, Ryan Mink, you know what? I’ll take it.
I saw an Instagram photo of you doing a headstand. Are you into yoga?
Yeah. I started doing yoga this offseason—and I actually quite enjoyed it. Just another way to take care of my body.
And your mind, too?
Definitely. Focusing on how to really center myself. That’s something that’s important to me—having my feet under me and knowing exactly where they’re going. Knowing exactly what the rest of my body will be doing in that 1.3 seconds between the snap, the hold and the kick.
Do you have any pregame rituals for good luck?
Ever since my rec soccer days, I lay out my uniform in front of my locker—helmet, shoulder pads, jersey, pants, socks, shoes, everything—in the shape of a man on the floor. It’s something I borrowed from Deion Sanders, Prime Time. I grew up watching the Cowboys and Prime was one of my favorite players.
You once tweeted a quote from Donald Trump that said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with bringing your talents to the surface. Having an ego and acknowledging it is a healthy choice.’ How big is your ego after kicking a 61-yarder? Does your brain just implode?
It would be pretty easy for that to happen—to fall into that trap. But I try to keep it in perspective. Part of being a pro is knowing that you’re a part of something that is bigger than yourself.
Watching kickers is always emotional for me. I’ve definitely cried for Billy Cundiff.
There have been times where I’ve struggled, myself. Realistically, any game could come down to my foot. It’s a blessing, it’s nerve-wracking, it’s a great opportunity. It is something that a lot of people would probably be scared of. Those are the times when I depend most on my teammates and remember they have my back, just like I have theirs. If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging. More often than not, we’re going to come back with points.
More than 90 percent of the time, in fact. Are fans still jerks sometimes when you make a mistake?
Sure. I can’t tell you how many knuckleheads have blown up my Twitter feed with fantasy football remarks. It’s ridiculous. But, it comes with the territory. It just goes back to the philosophy of ‘never let yourself get too big.’ Even if I was on some level of celebrity like The Biebs [Justin Bieber], you just can’t let it affect who you are, how you behave and your truest relationships.
What was the best perk you got after you won the Super Bowl?
Anquan Boldin and I got to play bubble soccer on ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,’ which was really fun. I’ve always been a fan of his.
I remember! And Josh Charles played with you guys, too. Any other big brushes with fame?
I don’t want to name-drop a long list, but Amanda and I have been lucky to meet some amazing people. My favorites, though, are right here in town. Recently we’ve gotten to know the members of a band based out of Timonium called All Time Low. Jack and Alex. I can say they’re two of my best friends. Love those guys. Baltimore’s just filled with great people.
Fun. OK, last personal detail. What’s the tattoo on your back?
It’s a cross with wings. It has my Catholic confirmation saint name, which is Cephas—that’s what Jesus called Peter—and a reference to the Bible verse where Jesus says to Peter, ‘You are the rock upon which I’ll build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.’
Why is that verse meaningful to you?
It ties in the human element to spirituality. In any major world religion, there’s a human element at play, which some might argue is flawed. I think it makes the whole thing just beautiful. I got the tattoo when I was 18. Looking back on it now, I think 80 percent of people regret their tattoos. The only thing I regret is not doing it way bigger and way more ornate.
I’m a retired Catholic, but I do like the new pope. How about you?
He’s a baller! Pope Francis is the coolest. But I also liked Pope Benedict and Pope J.P.2. But whatever religion you identify with—whether it’s Judaism or Islam or something else—there’s always a unifying component. We were all made by the same guy upstairs. To steal a line from ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ we should all just ‘Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes.’