Source: USA TODAY
OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens is always pushing himself outside his comfort zone, whether it be kicking record-setting field goals or elevating his opera-singing skills.
So it is the second-year kicker insists he has a longer field goal in his right leg than the franchise-record – and game-winning – 61-yard field goal that dropped the Detroit Lions 18-16 Monday night.
The undrafted opera- and hip-hop-singing kicker is confident that given the right field and weather conditions, he is capable of trumping Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater’s 64-yarder hit Dec. 8 against the Tennessee Titans as the longest in league history.
“If I pulled out the 8-degree driver – on a day when I’m feeling real fresh – I could probably hit one from 70 yards,” Tucker told USA TODAY Sports. “I hit one from 70 yards in pregame in Detroit this past Monday night.”
What is the former University of Texas standout’s longest shot?
“In practice I’ve hit from 79 yards,” Tucker said. “That was in Denver before our opener in September. The weather was perfect; the field was good. With the altitude in the Rocky Mountains, the ball jumps off your foot.
“The reality is a situation like that will come up once in a blue moon. But if you have that club in your bag, you never know when you’re going to need to use it.”
Tucker has converted a league-best 35 of 37 field goals this season, and his leg figures to prove vital in Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots (10-4). Three of the past four games between the teams were decided by three points or fewer.
It has been a dizzying week for the kicker, who has converted 33 consecutive field goals, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.
Tucker received several congratulatory texts from kicking peers, such as the Chicago Bears’ Robbie Gould thanking him for beating the Lions and keeping the Bears in the thick of the NFC North title mix.
“It’s been a little crazy – it’s been fun,” Tucker said. “To be able to share this journey with such a great group – the guys in this locker room, the coaches, everybody in this building has been a cool deal.”
There was a downtown Baltimore billboard raised this week that read, “Legatron tops Megatron,” a shout out honoring Tucker’s six field goals that topped the Lions and record-setting receiver Calvin Johnson, a.k.a. “Megatron.”
Tucker, however, said the “Legatron” moniker already is spoken for.
“That whole ‘Legatron’ thing – that’s (St. Louis Rams) Greg Zuerlein’s deal, the rookie kicker for the Rams last year,” he said. “He was known early on in their training camp for being a guy with a big leg.
“I can’t disrespect him by trying to wrestle away a nickname that he’s earned.
“Coming up with a nickname is the media’s deal.”
Well, how about “The Pavarotti of placekickers?”
Tucker was classically trained in opera at Texas’ Butler School of Music, where he learned to sing in seven languages.
The difference is that Luciano Pavarotti was a tenor. The 6-foot, 180-pound Tucker is a baritone with two standing invitations.
“The Art Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric Opera House and the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company have asked him to sing when the season is over,” Tucker’s agent, Robert Roche, said.
Tucker’s opera and hip-hop skills are on display in a popular Internet soft-drink video commercial shot this offseason.
Tight end Dallas Clark says Tucker’s “different cat” persona is evident when he’ll break into impromptu hip-hop riffs that show a “loose” guy wired right to handle his pressure-filled job.
Coach John Harbaugh knew in training camp last summer when Tucker was competing against veteran Billy Cundiff that Tucker had the requisite nerves to withstand the NFL job.
“He was competing for the job, and he never wavered,” Harbaugh said. “He made kicks, and every one of those kicks was a pressure kick because he was trying to establish himself and earn a job.
“I don’t think anything has changed.”
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