Quiet greatness is Tucker's way

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

He doesn't dance in the end zone. He doesn't do or say anything to bring attention to himself. All he does is catch the football and make great play after great play.

Which is why Jason Tucker is "quietly" having another sensational season. Anything Tucker does is done quietly.

"I've always been quiet. I just go out to my job. I'm not flashy. And I do not bring attention to myself. I try to do the best job every week. That's the way I am."

Tucker is starting to bring attention to himself the old fashioned way. He's earning it.

If he keeps going the way he has been going this season, it'll be a career year.

Tucker goes into the final third of the CFL schedule leading all receivers in the league with 70 catches for 1,129 yards.

Projected, that works out to 105 catches for 1,693 yards.

The Eskimos record for most receptions in a season is 106 by Craig Ellis in 1990 and Terry Vaughn in 2003. Only one other Eskimo has ever had a 100-catch year - Brian Kelly in 1983.

The Eskimos record for most yards in a season is owned by Kelly with 1,812 in 1983. Kelly also sits in second with 1,665 yards two years earlier.

Teammate Derrell Mitchell's CFL record of 160 catches from 1998 with the Toronto Argos may never be broken. But only six players have managed as many as 118 catches.

As for yards, Allen Pitts holds the record at 2,036. Mitchell and Terry Grier are the only others to hit the 2,000-yard mark. Kelly's 1,812 sits sixth.

In three and two-thirds seasons with the Eskimos, Tucker has caught 229 passes for 4,418 yards. He also has 37 touchdowns.

You can make your own career projections and have some real fun with those figures.

Finally, Tucker's numbers are bringing focus on a guy who hasn't really been viewed as the CFL star he has quite obviously become. He certainly hasn't gone out of the way to search for the spotlight.

"They're numbers. I'm not worried about those numbers. The only numbers I'm worried about are wins and losses, Grey Cup games played and Grey Cup games won."

Tucker is good at Grey Cups. He's a Grey Cup kind of guy.

In 2002, he caught eight passes for 127 yards in the Grey Cup loss to the Montreal Alouettes. In 2003, he caught seven more for 132 yards and two touchdowns to help win the Grey Cup and to take MVP honours.

"Those games go in the history books," said Tucker. "Your name goes on that trophy."

While he had those successes, it's this season which is making Tucker a genuine CFL star.

"If that's true, that's good," he says. "I'm not searching for it. I just want to play the game. I love to play the game."

With success, he's also drawn attention in another area.

"I'm drawing a lot more double-teaming now. But that's good. That opens stuff up for the other guys."

Tucker says to catch a football, somebody has to throw it and gives a great deal of credit to his quarterbacks.

"I've got two great ones. Ricky Ray is a great quarterback. And you can't ask for a better backup than Jason Maas.

There's something special between Ray and Tucker - especially when they're going against Montreal. Earlier this year, Ray hit Tucker nine times for 217 yards.

"Ricky is a real smart quarterback. He finds guys who are open. He knows where to throw the ball. You love a quarterback who always knows where the ball needs to go. He goes to his reads and throws the ball."

Tucker also loves the green, green grass over home.

It can be slippery.

"I know where I'm going. The defensive back doesn't. I make my move, he slips. Big advantage. The colder it gets, the bigger the advantage. The field becomes an ice rink."

Tucker and the CFL were love at first sight.

"This is a receiver-friendly league," he laughed not long after he arrived. "It's a lot faster game. There's lots of room to work and they throw ball 80% of the time. What's not to like?"

Not that Tucker figured he had the game he had with the Dallas Cowboys with Troy Aikman throwing the football.

That was on New Year's Eve 1999. Tucker had seven catches for 128 yards and a touchdown in that tilt. He also had kickoff returns for a club record 203 yards. His 331 all-purpose yards that day tied him for ninth most yards in a single game in National Football League history.

Born Jason Lamar Tucker on June 24, 1976 in San Francisco, Tucker grew up as a Texan.

"We moved when I was a baby. I grew up in Waco."

His mom wouldn't let him play football.

"My first memory of football is not being able to play football," he laughs.

All his friends were playing Pop Warner ball, but not little Jason Tucker.

"My mom was over-protective of me. She said 'You are NOT playing football.' No Pop Warner. None of that. She wouldn't let me play until I was in junior high.

"She was afraid I'd get hurt. She was worried I'd break something.

"Then I broke something and after that it was OK," he laughed and told the story.

"I was playing basketball when a guy undercut me. I broke my arm. After that my mom decided I could get hurt in any sport. It took me breaking my arm for her to say 'OK, go ahead and play football.' "

The tall, gangly kid who would grow up to be six-foot-two and 180 pounds knew exactly what position he wanted to play.

"I've been a receiver right from start. I immediately loved the position and the game. I was pretty good at it."

And he got to be a high school football star in Texas, which is something a high school player here or just about anywhere else can't really relate to.

"Robson High School," he said. "It was pretty good. If you're going to play high school football, you want to play it in Texas.

"Friday Night Lights. It's the same all over Texas. High school football is a big thing. You know every Friday night is going to be a big night. We had a pretty good team, too. We never won a championship but we were always in the playoffs. I made All-Division, All-Star ... and I got scouted pretty good. I had visits to Texas, Baylor and Texas Christian."

It was the latter, TCU in Fort Worth, where he spent his college career.

"I played as a freshman. We were in the Independence Bowl my first year."

In his junior year, Tucker started every game and was second in receptions with 39 for 692 yards with the Horned Frogs.

Selected in the sixth round (167th overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals, he was injured in camp and later released. After a few weeks of rehab, he was picked up by Green Bay and spent the rest of the year on the Packers practice roster. At the end of the year, he was picked up by Dallas.

Before he stepped on the field with the Cowboys, Tucker found himself in Europe playing with the Rhein Fire.

"It was a nice little league," he said of NFL Europe. "It was a fun time. I got to see places I'd probably never see. I got to go to Paris while I was over there. I enjoyed it. And I played well."

Direct from Europe to Dallas, Tucker found himself in the NFL.

"I made the team, stayed in Dallas for two years. Toward the end of the 1999 season, because of a couple of injuries, I was almost the go-to guy. But by the end of the 2001 camp, they released me. I can't tell you why. They said they decided to go in a different direction. I sat out all of 2001. Paul Jones started calling me after I got cut in Dallas. Eventually I decided I gotta do something. I can't sit around the house. I took a look at Edmonton and decided to take it."

His wife Giesla and two daughters Kendall and Jaelun reside on their 1,300-acre ranch in Gateville, Texas in the off-season.

"My wife and kids stay back there during the season and come up to visit a couple of times," he says.

"They're my incentive to play harder. I'm playing for people other than myself."

Tucker isn't thinking about a return trip to the NFL or playing anywhere else in the league.

"I like it right here. Hopefully this is where I'm at for the rest of my career. The organization is great. The people are great. The city is great. The fans are great."

If he keeps it up at the end of his career here, a lot of people are going to say he was a great.


Videos

Photos