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Kidsday interviews NY Giants' Justin Tuck

New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck with

New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck with Kidsday reporters Melanie Betancur, Patrick Borkowski, Michael Lindsay and Abby Pistone at Simon and Schuster offices in Manhattan Credit: Newsday/Pat Mullooly

We met Giants defensive end Justin Tuck at the Simon and Schuster offices in Manhattan recently. We really enjoyed meeting him and also talking to him about his new book, “Home-Field Advantage.”

What made you decide to write a book?

We decided to write a book because we’re very passionate about reading. We wrote the book with the hope and the wish that if it leads one kid to enjoy reading then I can say the book is a success. We wrote it to hopefully get kids like yourself excited about reading.

What was the hardest thing growing up with one brother and five sisters?

We had to fight over the last piece of chicken a lot. That was pretty tough. Honestly the toughest thing was doing, the twins in this book, they were something else. We had a lot of issues growing up. We were always competing with each other. If I did something they would have to do something better. And vice versa. The hardest thing was not getting into fights because we were so competitive.

Who is your best friend on your team?

That’s a tough question. All the DE line guys are great friends. Dave Tollefson, is a good friend of mine, Osi Umenyiora is a great friend of mine, Corey Webster, all those guys are really good friends of mine.

What do you do when you’re not playing football?

I do stuff like this. We have basically a reading foundation called Tuck’s R.U.S.H for Literacy. We visit a lot of schools but most of the time when I’m not playing football is spending time with my family. I like to travel a lot. I do a lot of reading in off season.

What made you play football and why?

I like hitting people. Actually, I was a basketball player to begin with and I only started playing organized football until the 9th grade. And the reason why I picked it up was because my basketball coach said you probably could be a good football player. When I went out there I was pretty good at it and enjoyed it, but now I play it because I like to hit people.

Who do you like to hit the most on the field?

Quarterbacks.

Do quarterbacks complain too much when you hit them?

They normally don’t complain on the football field, they normally complain afterwards. But I’ve had quarterbacks not yell, but kind of when you hit them real hard they go “oh, oh.” I’ve had quarterbacks do that.

What was the first time you played football and how old were you?

The first time I played football I was in 9th grade and I was 14. My freshman year in high school.

Why did you choose uniform number 91?

Actually, I didn’t choose. The Giants kind of gave me that number. At first I didn’t like it, as I kept playing, as I grew into it, it became a part of me just like any other number. But I heard the reason why they gave it to me, Michael Strahan who was number 92 and they wanted me to be right below him 91.

Would you encourage your son to play football when he grows up?

What I’m going to do is I’m going to leave it up to him. I’m just going to encourage him to be active. Honestly, focus in all his school work first. But if he wants to play football, I’m going to be right there to help him, but if he wants to play golf or if he just wants to be a doctor, no matter what he does as long as it’s something positive then I’m going to encourage that.

Are you thinking about writing a new book?

I am thinking about writing another one. I’m not sure what title it will have, but I’m sure it will be something from my childhood, some funny story about me and my sisters. I have a lot of them.

Do you visit kids in their schools to talk about reading?

I do. So far I think we have seven schools that we visit regularly and me and my wife love visiting these schools and giving them opportunities to see us and interchange with them. It’s fun. I love to talk to guys like yourself because I remember I use to be your age and whenever some football star come around I was kind of googly eyed and always wanted to ask them a lot of crazy questions too. So for me it’s a good feeling.

What do you like to do when you’re at home?

I like to sit on the couch and play with my son and watch TV. Kind of just mellow out and do nothing. Because normally when I get home I’m kind of tired. So when I get home I pick my son up and play with him a little bit and watch TV and go to sleep. I don’t do much.

How many touchdowns have you scored and can you tell us about the time you scored your first touchdown?

Total? Let’s see. I’ve scored about. I’m just going to round it out to about 45 touchdowns. I’ve only scored one in the NFL. But in high school I scored a lot of touchdowns. In college and the NFL I played defense, so I didn’t get the opportunity to score as much. But I scored one touchdown four years ago. I guess the St. Louis Rams. I caught an interception and ran with that. The first touchdown I could remember scoring I was in high school in the 9th grade. I was playing tight end and I caught a pass over the middle and I outran everybody to the end zone, about a 60 yard pass. I literally didn’t know what to do with the ball, so I just went and handed it to the referee.

How did you get over being nervous playing in front of a lot of people?

Honestly, I don’t even realize it sometimes. I remember my first game in Notre Dame Stadium, for me once I get on the football field I kind of block all of it out. So for the first couple of years playing it was easy for me. Now it’s just like any other day.

Do people race over to you when you’re out shopping?

Sometimes. Where I live a lot of people know who I am so when I first moved there it was like that, but now they’re accustomed to see me, so it’s kind of hey Justin, how you doing! But some places you go you get people who run over. But that’s fine. That’s part of it.

How did you feel to win the Super Bowl?

I think it’s been the greatest experience, sports experience, that I’ve ever been involved with. To know that you’re number 1 in the world at that time is a great feeling. You know how we did it. We beat a team that no one really gave us a shot to win. So, yeah, I think it was one of the best stories sports wise that I’ve ever been a part of.

Do you have a hard time concentrating when all the fans are yelling your name?

Not really. I think it helps me concentrate even more. All their cheering or their booing I think for me it kind of locks me even more. I have a hard time concentrating like if the crowd goes quiet. I don’t like when the crowd is quiet. So the louder it is, the more at home I feel.

How did you feel to live with all of your five sisters and one brother?

Crowded. But it was fun. We never had any dull moments. You always had somebody to play with. You always had somebody to talk with. We had our ups and downs, but all in all it was a great experience and I would love to have the same experiences for my kids.

What is more fun playing college football or professional football?

Fun I would say college. In college you didn’t have to worry about, now I have a family so it’s . . . in professional football it’s more of a business. In college you’re still playing just because you really, really love the game and obviously I still love the game, but in college I didn’t have bills to pay, I didn’t have to worry about coming home to make sure my wife and kid was alright. It was just you’re in college you’re learning, you’re playing a sport with guys you love. That was the only worries you had. Now I guess as a grown man you got so many other responsibilities.

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