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The Tuck Leadership Paradox

Defensive end Justin Tuck takes a breather at

Defensive end Justin Tuck takes a breather at Giants training camp in Albany, N.Y. (Aug. 2, 2010) Credit: Jon Winslow

I had a chance to have an interesting conversation with Justin Tuck today about trying to evolve into a leader for the team. You can read that story here (it’ll be in tomorrow’s paper but it’s already posted online).

What I found interesting was what I’ll call the Tuck Leadership Paradox.

Tuck maintains that the key to being a leader is for it to come naturally. That players will sniff out a phony who is just saying things to try to get folks riled up.

“I think everybody’s seen it,” he said (although he politely chose not to give examples).

But when I asked him if he is a natural leader, he said he doesn’t think there is such a thing and that it has to be worked on as an acquired skill.

On one hand you have to be natural. But on the other hand you have to work on refining the delivery.

That’s tough to do. And for a thoughtful guy like Tuck who really is humbled by this desire that people have for him to stand tall and be a leader of the defense, it’s a balancing act. This a guy, remember, who didn’t feel it was his place to call teammates out at practice last year for not hustling because his shoulder wasn’t allowing him to go 100 percent full speed in every drill.

He also seems to think that he lacks the credentials to be a real leader. He pointed to Michael Strahan, probably the best example throughout his career.

“You talk about Stray, it was easy for him,” Tuck said. “Seven Pro Bowls, he’s going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, he could have said the sky is green and guys who have been like ‘Yeah, I see the green tint.’

“I just have to find my way and see what works for me and make it my own,” he said.

Will that include stomping out opponents?

“Nnnnnope,” he said.

That just wouldn’t come naturally for him.

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