Nothern Illinois wide receiver Cole Tucker stands a little over 24 hours away from the biggest moment of his football career: the NFL Draft. Thanks to his dad for instilling the spark in him to play the game from a young age, he’s taking his journey to the next level when he hopefully receives that phone call over the next few days.
Tucker had 155 receptions for 2,030 yards and 10 touchdowns in his 53-game stretch at Northern Illinois. Lining up on defense, he also had two solo tackles, proving to be quite the versatile, quick-on-his-feet player so many teams hope to get.
“It’s just something that I gravitated towards when I was young and I really fell in love with the game at an early age,” Tucker said. “I grew up about ten minutes away from campus cheering on the Huskies growing up. So it was a dream come true to be able to play for them. Had some ups and downs in college, but luckily was able to win two conference championships while I was there.”
His abilities were seen in the NFC North over the past few months in preparation for the draft. Tucker had the opportunity to get some visits and workouts in with two rival teams in the North.
“I was down in Tampa Bay, Florida, working out, preparing for my pro day. That was an awesome time. Just really was feeling good physically [and] mentally. Ever since the pro day, I’ve done workouts with the Packers and the Bears, so I’ve been just staying in shape.” Tucker said.
Since Tucker grew up rooting for the Bears, the experience to showcase his skills to the teams was anything and more than he could have asked for.
“It’s been awesome. It’s been a great opportunity. I was able to go up there to Lambeau, never been up there before, see the kind of coach that the Packers have, meet everybody, sit down with the coaches,” Tucker said.
Should he have a lasting impression on the team, he strives to be a difference maker on the field, much like Justin Fields or Quay Walker have been.
“It’s exciting. I know it’s great to see young guys do great in the NFL. I think it’s exciting for me to even have a chance to do that.” Tucker said.
“I believe that I’m a very cerebral football player. I think my mindset is being part on the field, always thinking pre-snap and post-snap, [and] seeing what the defense is doing. I also think something that separates me is my route running ability, pride myself on being able to run great routes, nice crisp routes, be where the quarterback needs [to] be at all times.” he said.
Growing up with a love of the game, Tucker has a few guys he’s inspired by.
“One of the guys will be Allen Robinson, who just got traded to the Steelers. He’s a guy I’ve watched a lot in the past and in college. He was a Bear at one point, and he’s been watching him be able to run routes and how he gets open is something special.” Tucker said. “And another guy would be Cooper Kupp. The way he gets open with his body control, he uses every part of his body to get open and set up defenders and it’s really something special to watch.”
Much like Robinson and Kupp did, staying focused in pursuit of your goals is something Tucker would encourage anyone to do to get their shot at playing in the big leagues, alluding to a great motto he lives by.
“I think my advice would be it’s cliche, but just keep your head down and keep working. There’s always [a] saying that hard work beats talent unless talent works hard. That’s something I’ve believed in my whole life.” Tucker said. “You can be at the most athletic kid in the world if you don’t work for it, if you don’t get in the gym and do everything you need to do, then you can only be so athletic.”
Tucker’s journey is just beginning, but it’s something he’s longed for a long time.
“For 23 years now, this is all I really wanted was even just have an opportunity to be a part of an NFL team. And I think that this upcoming week is going to be something very special and stressful at the same time. But it’s something I’ve worked for my whole life. It’s been my dream, my family’s helped me along the way, and I think it’s going to be a really special moment for all of us.” Tucker said.
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