An experienced veteran of Cincinnati’s offense in 2022 and one of the top kick returners in the nation, Bearcats wide receiver Tre Tucker understands the importance of being a team player.
Tucker is a speedy receiver who’s done some serious damage against AAC secondaries, especially out of the slot. He’s looking to carry the momentum he picked up over an illustrious collegiate career into a strong career in the NFL.
Windy City Gridiron spoke with Tucker about the Senior Bowl, his friendship with teammate and fellow wide receiver Tyler Scott, what it meant to be the first Group of 5 team to make the college football playoff, and more.
JI: You were a part of some special Cincinnati teams. What was your favorite moment from your time there?
TT: I’d say just the whole entire thing, just because of the brotherhood that we built there. It’s special. I got to be around some tremendous guys, the staff was tremendous, Coach [Luke] Fickell, and our staff was just amazing. There’s no moment, like the wins and losses. Those are great, obviously the Cotton Bowl or playing in the playoffs, [but] I think, the end of the day, the people I got to play with there made it special.
JI: What did it mean to you to be able to be the first team outside of the Power 5 to make it to the college football playoff?
TT: It means everything. Right now, it’s weird, because we talk about it all the time with some of the guys: we don’t really know how special it is until a few years later. A few years from now, we’ll really see, but I think we know that we did something that’s never been done. I think that’s just kind of our mentality at Cincinnati. We weren’t really looking like, “hey, let’s win the whole thing”. Obviously, we didn’t. It was more of like for us, we looked at the Grand Prize, that our biggest day in our program was just winning championships, in our conference. Do that, that’ll set us up to what we wanted to do, and that’s what we did, and we ended up in the College Football Playoff. I think about three, four years from now — with the new format that they created, obviously, they’re in the Big 12 now — but I think we’ll really realize that, “wow, we were the team that did that. There’s only gonna be one team”.
JI: You and Tyler Scott have known each other since you guys were kids, and now you’re exiting Cincinnati at the same time and entering the NFL Draft. What does it mean to be going through this process with him?
TT: I think it means everything, honestly. I’m not just saying that because he’s like my brother, but I think it means everything. He’s always been like my little brother. I’m the youngest of 12 siblings, I’m the youngest, so [with] him, it’s kind of like, “oh, well, that’s my little brother”, so it’s great. It’s unreal. There’s just no way [you] would have told us, “you guys are going to play with each other in college, then start next to each other, and then enter the draft together, you know what I mean? It’s unreal, but I know it’s for a reason. Like I said, there’s no one I’d rather ever do it with other than him. It’s just amazing.
JI: I asked Tyler the same question, so I’m gonna ask you: what would it mean for you two to somehow get drafted by the same NFL team?
TT: If we got drafted by the same team. I mean, I just want to let you know: if a team did that, they’re gonna get two studs. You’re gonna have two guys in your locker room that are just one person. It’s like a two for one. I can’t even put into words how crazy and how great that would be. I don’t have words for it.
JI: He mentioned you guys are so in sync with each other and know how to motivate each other, which brings out the best in both of you.
TT: Yeah, 100%. The thing about us is, if you look at us, our numbers are very similar in everything. I mean, it’s weird. We lift the same, we run the same — I’m the faster one (laughs), but everything we do, we’re very close. I think you’re right: he hit it on the stone. I know what he responds to, because for me, now I can know what I respond to. Maybe we’re lifting together, and I’m like, “hey, bro...” He’ll do some different, but I do something different, but I can also compete, like “hey, look, I’m doing it this way. I know you’re doing that, but listen.” He’s going hard and [gets] his weight goes up. Me and him, it’s weird. It’s an ongoing competition, every day. We have some more competing, but it’s silent. It’s not screaming like, it’s like we never like it’s funny because people as a human media, we don’t bet you don’t even it’s understood like okay, well, someone has to win. It’s got to be near you. So yes, it brings the best out both of us.
JI: A lot of people in the Bearcat programs have touted you as a leader in the locker room. Can you speak to how you’ve grown as a leader and what traits you think make a good leader?
TT: In my life, I’ve always strived to be an alpha. I think it’s just that, but I’ve always been a person, like I said, an alpha leader and a leader, not a follower. I grew up with people who weren’t doing the greatest things, and I’m just like, “well, that’s not good for me. I’m not gonna do it.” I’d rather people go, “hey, what you doing? Oh, you know what I do?” Because let me tell you: peer pressure is a real thing. I think that’s how it always separated with me, and then I think people started to gravitate towards me, because the [demeanor], that attracts people. People can feel it. For me, it’s personally something that’s built over time, how I carry myself. When I got into college, you’re going in with guys like Desmond Ridder, Myjai Sanders, guys who were leaders, obviously, with the program, but they had to pave their way, as well. [In] a great program, you don’t come in and be a leader. You have to understand there’s leaders there. That’s a great national program. I don’t know what it’s like, but I know if your program has sporadic leaders — because it could — but I know, from my experience, our leaders were our older people, because that’s just how the system was built. So for me, obviously, I got elected as team captain, and that was probably my greatest honor, because, the team votes on it. It shows, over time, I’ve always done the right thing, but not just doing the right thing on the field, [but] off the field. I wasn’t a big partier. I’m not a drinker and smoker, so just being a good example to look at when guys need it, because I know there’s times where like, “oh, man, well, everyone else doing it. I might as well do it. Well, hey, wait. Tre’s not doing it, and that’s our leader.” It could be a good example.
JI: What was it like to take part in both the Senior Bowl and the Combine?
TT: it’s a blessing, honestly. I grew up, I could remember the first time I saw the Senior Bowl on TV, I was like, “oh, wow, it’s the best players in the country. I want to play in that.” As I got older, I’m like, “oh, man, that’s a tough game to get to. I got to really go,” and then the Combine is even [more] amplified. Everyone knows about the NFL Combine. That’s the staple of it all, because everyone’s there: every prospect, whether junior or senior, however old you are, everyone’s there, whereas the Senior Bowl is 100 people, your top 100 senior guys or whatever. It was just tremendous when I got my Senior Bowl [invitation], and I didn’t even know so was there for a while. Our coaches, they don’t tell the guys. [They want us] to stay focused during the season, which is good, but I didn’t know. I’ll never forget how I found out: my coaches were leaving [for Wisconsin], they’re all, “hey, come on to the office”. We got to talk to a little bit, so they gave my invite, but they’re all leaving, so it’s like you couldn’t really celebrate it with them, but we’re celebrating now. The Combine, I remember when [the invitation] hit my phone. I couldn’t believe it. It was December 30, and I can remember the date, and I was just like, “this is something that I’ve dreamed of”. Being able to participate in it, being one of those selected 319 people being there…and I think someone said at the Combine: 319 people get selected, but I bet [if] they had an urge to call 90 people, they show up that same day that they’d be ready to go the same day. It’s a blessing and honor.
JI: Were you satisfied with your Combine performance?
TT: I’m a high-level competitor. I’m gonna go in anything, show them like, “hey, I’m gonna do my best”. At the end of the Combine, I could have done better. I think I did well overall, but I’d say on the 40, I messed up a little bit. I haven’t ran 4.4 since high school, even though that’s blazing. I’ve been clocked at some bizarre times, so I’m going to correct that at the Pro Day. Other than that, I feel like I did well in the drills. I’m really excited to even improve on that even more, and even show off my shuttles and three cones and all that stuff, too, because it’s another one of my strengths. Overall, man, I think I did well. I don’t think people understand the Combine’s designed for you to not do well. That’s the point of it: who can prosper in an environment like that? It’s tough all week, which personally, I love it. It’s good. You pick the guys you want out of that who could thrive when the times get tough, because that turns into a game.
JI: You beat Tyler in the 40-yard dash by 0.04 seconds. Did you talk a little trash about that to him?
TT: I think we’re pretty upset about how that transpired, but he knows who the faster one is. Even at Cincinnati, I always said, if we raced 10 times, I’d win 9. [I wouldn’t win] 10 out of 10. I’ll get tired eventually. It’s kind of a thing where he’s trying to get me, so I had to uphold that. And look, if I would have ran a 4.62, and he ran a 4.63, a win’s a win. For him, I know, we both were really disappointed about [our 40s], so we weren’t really ecstatic about it. So We’ll compete with that again at this Pro Day (Editor’s note: Since this interview took place, Tucker re-ran his 40-yard dash and finished at 4.32).
JI: How do you spend your free time outside of football?
TT: I’m a big relaxer, so I like to watch Netflix shows. I’m gonna do a lot of weird shows like Manifest and The 100. I love to catch up on my shows. I’m so busy, flying here, training here. going to this place. It’s so crazy that the Senior Bowl and the Combine put together, that’s two and a half weeks. I mean, that’s half a month, in two different states while you’re trying to do training. My thing is, “hey, if you work hard enough, you should have this feeling”. At the end of the day, I like sightseeing. I like going out — not going out to clubs, bars — but going out, maybe seeing somewhere I haven’t seen, seeing historic buildings. I’m a history guy. I’m in Kentucky right now. Obviously, I went to school in Cincinnati, so Kentucky is only a few minutes away, but just the history of it like the Ohio River, things like that.
JI: Those shows you mentioned, what kinda genre are they in?
TT: I don’t like scary movies. I’m not a big scary movie guy.I think it’s more like sci-fi or thriller. I like the mystery. The 100, it’s about a group of like 100 kids who get sent space because the Earth blew up or something like that. Now, they get sent back down there to see if they can move on, and they just discover a bunch of different people survived. Obviously, Manifest is about a plane disappearing, so just stuff like that; I do like to be on my toes when I’m watching stuff.
JI: I’m almost done with Demon Slayer on Netflix, so I might have to take one of those up once I finish.
TT: Trust me. I think you’ll love it. I’m sure you’ve heard Outer Banks, too — that’s kind of common — but I like that show, as well.
JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?
TT: Football-wise, I think I’m very physical. No one’s going outphysical me. I’m very fast. I’m a football player. I’m tough, you know what I mean? I love the game. I’m very versatile. I can play anything. Outside of football, I’m a true definition of a leader. I value that. I don’t just lead when I’m on the field. Anyone can do that; that’s easy, but what do you when the coaches aren’t around? What are you like then; are you representing your organization, your team? I do that very well. I take pride in that, because I want to be that guy that people look at. I can make the right decision, not, “well, hey, everyone’s doing it, so I’m gonna do it”. I’m the biggest competitor. I don’t like to lose, whether it’s even card games. We could be competing, who can put wood on a truck the fastest. I just don’t like losing; that’s my biggest thing.