OWINGS MILLS — University of Texas kicker Justin Tucker had more than an inkling that the Baltimore Ravens would sign him shortly after the NFL draft.
The Ravens called him shortly before the end of the seventh round to make their recruiting pitch, and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg auditioned him privately the Tuesday before the draft.
And Tucker chose the Ravens over competing offers from the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears, saying coach John Harbaugh’s background as a special teams coach was a big factor in his decision.
"I’m pretty pumped, it happened so quickly and I had my mind made up from the get-go," Tucker told 24×7 in a telephone interview. "I got a lot of calls, but Baltimore was the perfect fit for me. I had talked to coach Rosburg and worked out for him and that went well. I knew their kicking situation and what they were thinking.
"I couldn’t be any more excited about the opportunity. The Ravens have always been a contending team on a regular basis. It’s a culture of winning. Coach Harbaugh is an experienced special-teams guy. He’s a good coach. I didn’t have a single reservation about my decision."
Tucker said he’s looking forward to competing with former Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff, who missed a hurried potential game-tying field goal in an AFC championship game loss to the New England Patriots.
Tucker made 17 of 21 field goals as a senior for the Longhorns.
"They want to create a competition," said Tucker, who arrives in Baltimore late this week for a rookie minicamp. "I remember watching Billy in middle school and high school. I know he’s a good kicker, and he’s certainly done some good things. I’m looking forward to a chance to compete. I’m going to do my thing and make the most of the opportunity.
"I feel like my strengths, first and foremost, are clutch kicking. If you’re playing this game, you had better want to have the ball in your hands. You want to be the guy who hits the walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. Otherwise, why play the game. Clutch kicking and kicking accuracy are my strengths. I’m athletic, but I can get bigger and stronger."
Tucker connected on 23 of 27 kicks as a junior.
Tucker doubled as a punter at Texas, averaging 40.3 yards per punt.
"I feel like I’m pretty versatile," Tucker said. "I can be an emergency option at punter, if need be. I feel like I’m a football player that can kick the ball. I like to get the weight room and earn my teammates’ respect by producing."
Tucker nailed a 40-yard game-winning field goal to beat archrival Texas A&M in what figures to be the final game in the annual series since the Aggies have joined the Southeastern Conference.
"Making that kick was certainly a positive thing," said Tucker, who graduated in December with a degree in recording technology in Dec. "I treat every single kick like you’re hitting the game-winner. I try to envision it like that. It’s the immediately ultimate impact on the game. Every single point matters, especially in a league with so much parity."
After making that kick, Tucker became something of a folk hero on campus.
In a rowdy atmosphere in College Station, it wasn’t a routine field goal.
"I’ve seen myself make that kick 1,000 times and then some," Tucker said. "I always end each workout with a simulated pressure situation field goal. For me, hitting that kick against Texas A&M was a chance for me to see my hard work and focus over a number of years come to fruition. Their fans are pretty dang loud.
"They register on the Richter scale. They sway back and forth before the fourth quarter. They create a little movement on the seismograph. Being able to block out that stuff is the most important part of any field goal. You have to be able to visualize and have a very specific plan for each kick."