Even among his teammates, Texas senior kicker Justin Tucker is known as a weird dude. Whether it's rapping with Sergio Kindle or singing opera in the shower, Tucker marches to the beat of his own drummer. And does so wearing bright orange soccer shoes.
He's also the newest Longhorn legend after nailing a 40-yard field goal as time expired Thursday night to edge Texas past the hated Aggies in what may be the final edition of the long-running rivalry.
Despite those odd characteristics of Tucker's personality, all teammate Blaine Irby cares about is his ability to make kicks under pressure:
J-Tuck might be a weird guy and sing opera in the shower. But he's a great kicker. He's confident. And we've never lacked confidence or trust in him. We knew it was going to go in.
It was a moment for which Tucker has spent years preparing:
Going out to the Westlake practice fields in the cold, when it's raining and 40 degrees, and then in the summer when it's 110, just picturing this moment.
My dad and I would set up the ball, and he would tell me a game situation, ‘Well there's three seconds left, no timeouts and it's going to be a 40-yard field goal to beat Texas A&M,' and I would knock it down every time.
The field goal added Tucker to a long list of recent Texas kickers who have propelled the Longhorns to major victories during the Ricky Williams set the all-time NCAA rushing record.era. In fact, Tucker's kick provided a fantastic bookend to a kick that helped pull out another last-second victory during Brown's first season -- Kris Stockton's 24-yard field goal to help lead Texas over the Aggies on the day
Other names on the list include Dusty Mangum, who kicked the game-winning field goal against Michigan in the Rose Bowl,
David Pino, in the Rose Bowl the following year, Ryan Bailey coming out of nowhere against Nebraska in 2006 in the snow in Lincoln, and, of course, the boot from Hunter Lawrence that barely edged inside the left upright to avoid a catastrophic loss to Nebraska in 2009, helping the Longhorns finish another Rose Bowl run.
None of those players, though, likely meant as much as to their team as Tucker does to these Longhorns. Probably the team MVP during the trainwreck also known as the 2010 Texas football season, Tucker has continued to do everything in the kicking game again this season -- kickoffs, traditional and ruby-style punting, and, of course, kicking field goals.
Though his work in the other phases has been merely average, Tucker's ability to consistently hit field goals has been a major boost for a team that struggles to score touchdowns in the red zone. Despite receiving few national accolades, Tucker leads the country in field goal accuracy, having made 16 of 18 attempts on the season -- nearly 90%. He might be the team MVP once again this season and will be sorely missed next season.
A former safety in high school at Westlake, he also fancies himself a real football player and no doubt still chastises himself for his inability to catch Kansas return man Dezmon Briscoe on a kickoff return that eventually went for a touchdown in 2009. Still, Tucker was perhaps the best coverage man for Texas against Kansas State with a handful of tackles and is always willing to mix it up.
Regardless of those other attributes, however, Texas fans can rest assured that if the Longhorns need another game-winning kick against Baylor or in the bowl game, Justin Tucker will be ready. He's ice cold, even if he is a weird dude.