Justin Tuck hasn't played a down for the New York Giants since 2014, and Friday he stood at the podium in the Quest Diagnostics Training Center auditorium as a retired player. He was still leading, however. A former Giants defensive captain and two-time Super Bowl champion, Tuck couldn't help it. That's just who he is.
Tuck offered advice to the team's rookies, many of whom stood in the back of the auditorium while he spoke. He offered counsel to rookie head Ben McAdoo. Even though he wasn't around for the past two seasons, he took some of the blame for what has gone on with the Giants recently. He showed what a true teammates is, saying he can me every player and the college they attended from the two Super bowl teams he played on. He even offered praise -- and much-appreciated gifts of adult beverages -- to media in attendance.
In exiting, Tuck was what he had always been throughout his NFL career. A leader, and a class act.
Let's look at some of the takeaways from Tuck's remarks.
Advice for the rookies
With rookies in attendance, and even after they left, Tuck directed some of his remarks to them.
"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."
Plaudits for first-round pick Eli Apple
Tuck took time to single out first-round pick Eli Apple, who recently reached out to him for advice.
"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 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."
On what he would like his legacy to be
"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.
"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."
On the Giants organization
"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."
On his future plans
Tuck is going back to school, as will be attending Wharton as he seeks his MBA. Wharton, incidentally, is in Philadelphia. Tuck isn't worred about going to class in the heart of Eagles' country.
"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."
He will still be around the Giants
Tuck said he plans to be around the Giants and on the sidelines as much as he can.
"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 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. ...
" ... 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."
Friday, briefly, might have been about Tuck. His career, his message to rookies and former teammates, his work with Rush For Literacy, have always been about something more.
That, for me, is Tuck's legacy. Always being about something more than himself.