The Baltimore Ravens 2011 season ended on a rushed field goal that sailed wide left, but there’s a new kicker on this year’s roster chomping at the bit trying to prove to the Ravens-or another NFL team-that he can be the best specialist on the team and make that kick should he get a chance.
That would be Justin Tucker out of the University of Texas. The rookie kicker joined Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” Tuesday after the first official day of training camp practices located at Owings Mills, and couldn’t be happier to get started.
“It is exciting,” Tucker said of his first NFL shot. “This is definitely a big step. It really feels like we’re getting the ball rolling. OTAs and mini-camps were great…now we’re kicking it up a notch. It’s about to get real fun.”
Tucker, 22, was brought in by the Ravens at the end of May after a tremendous run of consistency on his four-year resume at the University of Texas.
Tucker made 40-of-48 field goal attempts for coach Mack Brown and the Longhorns-his most memorable of recent being a 40-yard game winner against Texas A&M which got him carried off the field by his Longhorn teammates.
He also took on punting and kick-off duties at times in Austin.
Tucker feels like all those experiences couldn’t have him more ready to kick in the NFL given the similarities in the kicking dimensions of the college game and the pro level, and having to kick in high-pressure situations in front of packed arenas.
“You have the same challenges,” Tucker said to Clark. “It’s still you versus yourself on an island. For me, I was fortunate enough to play at the University of Texas in front of 100,000 fans in our stadium…and a bunch more on TV. I can definitely use those experiences for when I’m out here.”
That poise had Tucker on the Ravens’ eye throughout the draft process, and it didn’t take long for coach John Harbaugh and special teams coach Jerry Rosburg to see him out and bring him in for a workout after the last name was called.
“I got a couple phone calls towards the end of the draft and it was really a no-brainer for me,” Tucker said. “I had my sights set on Baltimore…I couldn’t be anymore excited with this opportunity.”
And Tucker proved the Ravens right on the move-delighting them with his long leg and ability to make 55+ yard field goals throughout the OTA and mini-camp process.
Tucker will most likely be the extra leg in camp, but some have speculated that Tucker could give incumbent kicker Billy Cundiff a run for his money.
Cundiff, after making the Pro Bowl in 2010 and signing a five year, 15 million dollar contract, struggled with consistency last season and missed a potential game-tying 32-yard field goal in the AFC Championship Game, ending the season for Baltimore.
Cundiff only connected of 75.9% of his field goals last season compared to close to 90 percent two years ago.
He was 1-of-6 on field goals beyond 50 yards.
But Tucker wanted to make it clear that stats don’t matter-especially ones from a year ago-and that he’s not gunning for Cundiff.
But at the same time, he wants to do this in the NFL for a living and do that, he knows it’s all about getting the job done and putting the ball through the uprights when it matters.
And there’s only so many jobs out there for him to take a hold of and earn.
“Well, this is a competition and it’s a business,” Tucker said. “My goal at the end is to be the best kicker for this team that I can be.”
“Kicking the ball through these poles in really black and white. It’s either good or it’s not. I just need to do the best I can do, and really cherish this opportunity and try and make something out of it.”
In the end, he’s just trying to achieve the same goals as everyone else on this roster, which is to be successful and win football games-most importantly-the last one played in a season.
“It’s just remembering that we’re all in the same boat,” Tucker said. “We all have the same goal-whether you’re a first-year guy like myself or a fifteen-year veteran.”
“There’s definitely ways to achieve those goals, but really sticking your best foot forward and sticking to a plan is paramount.”
WNST thanks Justin Tucker for joining us after practice! Be sure to follow WNST on Twitter for tomorrow’s first full-practice for the Baltimore Ravens! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!