Tuberville Coaching Legacy Continues
No matter how many internet searches or how many people you ask, there is no set-in-stone list of characteristics a college football coach should have, but few have what it takes. Tucker Tuberville, on the other hand, has a strong resume of attributes that will send him straight into a coaching career.
Growing up with a father as the head football coach at a major university gives a good opportunity for a young boy to see the ins and outs of the sport he loves. Thrown into a life around constant athletics, Tucker fell in love early.
Yes, he was one of those little kids playing pee-wee football in fifth grade. Yes, he was the starting quarterback of a high school team like hundreds of others. With a professional coaching father, Tucker saw a side to the sport few his age had seen.
He watched his father go through the mighty six seasons Auburn University consecutively defeated old-time rival Alabama Crimson Tide and the perfect season of 2004. Tucker celebrated these things, just as any Auburn fan would.
In a different way, Tucker also saw his father deal with the struggles of defeats and off season troubles. “He’s been around me when things are good and not so good, been in the locker room when things are good and not so good. Not only as a coach’s son but as a player,” Tommy, his father, said.
Tucker said he had consciously watched his father throughout the years to see how he ran his programs and how he treated people. Through Tucker’s eyes, everyone his father came in contact with mattered. “He’s abnormally good at building relationships, and it’s completely natural.”
While Tucker was looking up to his father for guidance, Tommy was watching his son grow and thrive. “We never had to motivate him growing up,” Tommy said.
“Tucker would make me get up at 5 o’clock in the morning or maybe earlier than that, and I would have to wake him up and make him eat eggs or some sort of protein,” Tucker’s mom Suzanne said. After he ate, Tucker would go back to sleep until she would wake him up again around 7 a.m., then she would carry him to the gym so he could work out before school.
“There’s not many kids that age that will take it upon themselves to do that,” Suzanne said. Some parents push their children to go above and beyond, and some coaches push their players to try and reach their potential. Tucker pushed himself.
“He’s such a competitor, and he likes challenges,” Tommy said. “If you tell him something is hard, that motivates him more.”
His desire to coach has motivated him to prepare for what the career holds. Tucker coached a 7-on-7 team the summer after he graduated high school and recently attended a coaching conference in San Antonio.
Coaching is a whole different type of competing, according to Tucker. “It’s more of a mind game than a physical one.”
Through his experiences, Tucker said he thinks being able to coach someone and see them progress over the years is going to be a big thing he loves about coaching.
In his first year at college, Tucker followed wherever his dad went. He began as a freshman at Texas Tech then transferred to Cincinnati during his second semester. “One day he just walked in and said ‘Dad, I want to go to Auburn,’ ” Tommy said.
Once Tucker had made the decision, his dad said if he moved he would be on his own. This wasn’t as punishment or from hurt feelings, but a learning experience for his son, according to Tommy. “Auburn’s kind of his home, so we accepted that and told him to go do it.”
Sure enough, Tucker took the opportunity into his own hands and made it happen without the connections of his father’s coaching world.
The difference between him and the other guys on the team was their goal. Most college players shoot for the NFL, but Tucker had a different plan.
As a walk-on quarterback, Tucker knew he wouldn’t be a starter. “I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t going to be a coach,” Tucker said. “It was like an internship for me, and I loved every second of it.”
“His focus was never playing time because he was more geared to becoming a coach,” Alex Woods, Tucker’s roommate and long-time friend, said.
His work ethic is a direct example of his motivated spirit. Not that the ability wasn’t there, but Tucker had to work toward getting better and earning his spot on teams. It frustrated him that his brother, Troy, never cared about sports the way Tucker did, but was an incredible athlete. ““The fact that he didn’t have to try and was so good, and I had to literally put every ounce of my energy in,” said Tucker.
After moving to Frenship High School before his junior year in high school, Tucker joined the football team and wanted one certain position, quarterback. “Quarterbacks are normally brought up as freshmen, so it was really hard for him to come compete his way in,” Suzanne said. By senior year, he was the starter and had passed a couple other guys who had been there longer.
Years later once he was back in Auburn, he understood the work didn’t stop, but would get harder. “He knew you had to put in the work even if you’re not going to get playing time to accomplish that goal of becoming a coach,” Woods said.
This work ethic came into play with school, too. “My dad always tells recruits’ parents this is the first time they will ever have two full time jobs in their life,” Tucker said.
Grades were never a problem for Tucker. His love for organization helped him stay on top of his homework and studying.
There aren’t many college football players who have a daily to-do list, a color-coded closet and even a battery organizer. Tucker’s friends told him the battery organizer was the most “Tucker thing” he could’ve bought.
While he was in high school, Suzanne hired someone to clean and organize their house. After Tucker found out she re-organized his room, he stuck a big sign on his door telling the worker to “Stay Out.” His mom laughed at the recollection and said, “That’s when the locks got put on the doors.”
If someone were to open Tucker’s notepad on his phone, he or she would find lists. A list of quotes, a list of books and a list of attributes former coaches have that he admired and those he said he would never have.
Woods said Tucker is meticulous in all he does, whether that is with his schoolwork, working out and even how he leads others.
“When you’re a freshman you looked up to all of the seniors whether you liked them or not,” Tucker said. For this reason, he consciously led by example. Even if the younger guys didn’t realize they were looking up to the seniors, he said he knew they did and wanted to be a positive influence for them.
Tucker’s tenth grade basketball coach Chad Prewett said Tucker had always been a natural leader. Being immersed in athletics his whole life, Tucker knew how to lead, and he stood out among his teammates.
Prewett said Tucker showed the other guys how to win and more importantly how to want to win. He could see Tucker being a coach even in high school.
“He has that personality that just draws people to him which most great leaders have,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. Being relatable to all different types of people is one of the biggest reasons Lashlee thinks Tucker will be successful.
Tommy said a hard aspect of coaching is being able to deal with 120 personalities on a day-to-day basis. Tucker got along with everyone on the Auburn team, according to Lashlee, so this transition should be one of the easier ones.
“Tucker has a humble spirit yet can command control of a room,” Prewett said and he thinks that is one of the most unique qualities he’s seen out of any players he’s coached. Living in a town where everyone knows your last name, it would be easy to get a little cocky, but Woods, his roommate, said Tucker’s not like that at all. “Overall, I’d just say he’s a normal guy.”
Chasing his dream, Tucker will be heading to Cincinnati this summer to be a graduate assistant for his father’s team. He will work specifically with the quarterbacks’ coach and offensive coordinator. Tommy thinks reality will hit Tucker hard especially when he learns the difference between a dad and a boss.
“A lot of times when you grow up and are around it, you think you know everything,” Tommy said. “But you really don’t because you haven’t seen the small things that build up to make the large things work.” Little struggles that slip past the average fans eye are recruiting, players’ academics and personal problems.
Both of his parents are not big fans of him pursuing coaching, but he insists to strive for the things people say are a challenge. One of his mom’s concerns is how public the life of a football coach is, and that it is especially difficult once you are married and have a family.
“This is a different world, coaching,” Tommy said. “You can’t just like it, you have to love it. It has to be engrained in you.” Tucker said the same, and then emphasized the love was there.
“I want to coach football. That’s always been the plan,” Tucker said. He knows there will be difficult situations and struggles but said, “The good parts are so good that I just want to do it.”