By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
During his college years at Princeton University, and even in his years in the NFL, Ross Tucker envisioned himself more as a Merrill Lynch type, than a Merrill Reese type. Tucker grew up near Reading, Pa., read about the Philadelphia Eagles in the hometown paper, aptly named the Eagle, and listened to Reese, the team’s long-time broadcaster.
Originally his dream was to get into the world of football media.
It happened, as Tucker has written for Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Sporting News and now “Sports on Earth.’ He also has a regular podcast, “The Morning Kickoff,’’ fills in regularly for Dan Patrick on NBC, broadcasts NFL games on Westwood One, and does college games for NBC Sports.
It just didn’t happen the way he thought it would.
“My dad was 5-9, 170 pounds, so I never thought I’d be a football player,” Tucker said. “I wanted to go to Syracuse (University) and then get a job at ESPN or write for Sports Illustrated. It turned out I became a much better player than I thought I would be. Then, I got the chance to go to Princeton, too.’’
Tucker, who grew to 6-4, 316 pounds, starred on the offensive line at Princeton and signed with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent in 2001. He spent seven years in the league including stints with the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots), his best from 2003-05 with the Buffalo Bills. A back injury in 2005, followed by a neck injury in 2007, ended his career.
“I knew I was done after I hurt my neck,’’ he said.
During his career, he used his Princeton background to do internships with Merrill Lynch, both in Washington and Dallas, the same firm he had internships with when he was in college.
“When you go to Princeton, there’s nothing really there for broadcasting or media or anything like that,’’ Tucker said. “So, I put all of that aside. And then when you’re in the NFL, everyone says they want to be a broadcaster, so I really got turned off to it.’’
There was the financial world, however, that awaited him. The Princeton education, the internships, it was all in place.
“I was going to be a financial advisor and help out players, while I was still playing,’’ Tucker said. “I had my best year for the Bills in 2004, started 12 games, earned playing-time bonuses. Then when I got hurt (in 2005) and cut by Buffalo, things kind of went sideways on me.’’
Tucker took advantage of the NFL’s first year of Broadcast Boot Camp and never looked back.
“The reason I went to the Broadcast Boot Camp was I thought I’d probably being doing finance, but even if I just did Princeton football games on the weekend, I wanted to do something with football. I went to the first one they ever had and I really liked it.’’
He did do the Princeton football games and that led to other opportunities. He also began to write about football as well.
“If I could write 15-page papers about Machiavelli while I was at Princeton, I could write 1,000 words on the Eagles’ offensive line,’’ Tucker said with a laugh. “That’s what would make me different, unique I thought.’’
He chronicled his final season with the Bills, and getting hurt, for Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, and again that led to more writing opportunities.
“It just took off,’’ Tucker said. “I don’t know of anyone I played with in my years that enjoyed football any more than I did. Now everything I do revolves around football.’’
Podcasts, broadcasts, radio, TV, and he’s still writing.
“I like it all,’’ he said. “Writing is more rewarding, but it’s also a labor of love. When I’m writing I feel like it’s the only time I’m actually using my Princeton degree.’’
Just not as he envisioned he would.