Marcus Tucker wasn’t drafted. He wasn’t even signed as a college free agent. He wasn’t even initially given an invitation to a rookie minicamp. But a spot eventually opened up for the Pittsburgh Steelers and they eventually relented to Tucker’s agent, giving him the call to show up.
He did, and he made plays during that rookie minicamp in 2016, enough to catch the eye of Head Coach Mike Tomlin, who as you surely know by now first informed his mother, on Mother’s Day, that the Steelers would be signing his son to a contract on their 90-man offseason roster.
Tucker has spent most of the past two seasons on the practice squad, including all of last year, and is hoping to be able to make the jump to the 53-man roster this time around. In pursuit of that goal, he has learned a lot from a player who had a very different path from his: Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Heyward-Bey was a top-10 draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2009. Though he never lived up to his draft status, he has carved out a career for himself that sees him heading into his 10th season as a valued and respected member of a winning team. Need proof? Tucker is the proof.
The first-year wide receiver participated in a questionnaire for the Steelers’ website recently, posted yesterday, and the first question that he asked was about who his inspiration or mentor was in football. He said it was Heyward-Bey. Why?
“He comes in every day, works hard. He was a first-round draft pick, but he works like he was one of the guys who still has to prove himself daily, day-in and day-out”, Tucker wrote for the team’s website. “I love how he helps the young guys out. He is so knowledgeable about the game, as far as the receiver spot and special teams goes. He is one of the guys I look up to as far as effort, working hard and knowledge”.
Heyward-Bey has certainly proven to be the atypical first-round wide receiver in both negative and positive ways. He obviously never produced like one, but the mentality that he brings to the game is much different from the ‘diva’ reputation earned by others such as Odell Beckham, Jr.
The former Raider has been widely credited by his fellow wide receivers over the past few years for helping the younger players, both in football and in life, just being a source of wisdom and an open set of ears. Martavis Bryant valued him, and frankly I’m hoping he can find a similar presence in Oakland with Jordy Nelson. I think he benefits a lot from that sort of relationship.
There is always a mixture of reactions when we talk about Heyward-Bey, on extreme ends of the spectrum. Some insist that he must be on the roster, others that he must go. The truth is somewhere in between, but the locker room is certainly better with him in it than without, and Tucker’s testimonial is but one prominent example of why that is.