Off to a fast start in his burgeoning NFL career, Ravens rookie kicker Justin Tucker attributes some of his immediate success to seeking and receiving sound guidance from his mentors.
That includes Cleveland Browns veteran kicker Phil Dawson, one of the best in the game and a fellow University of Texas football alum. Tucker also has talked with retired Ravens Pro Bowl kicker Matt Stover.
"Yeah, Phil's been great," Tucker said. "It was really cool seeing him before the Thursday night game when they came down here and catching up a little bit. While I was in school, I reached out to him a little bit for advice, for stuff on the field and off the field. I can't speak highly enough about him.
"He's a top-notch guy in every regard. He, Stover, there's a reason they stick out. It's their body of work for a long period of time. Off the field, I can't speak highly enough about those guys."
Tucker has connected on 14 of 15 field goals since beating out Billy Cundiff and has broken the Ravens' single-season record for field goals 50 yards and over with successful kicks from 56, 54, 51 and 51 yards.
Dawson is a strong role model for Tucker.
Dawson tied an NFL single-game record with three field goals of 50 yards or longer against Baltimore on Sept. 27 when he hit kicks from 52, 51, and 50 yards.
Dawson has been perfect on a dozen field goal attempts this season and has hit his last 18 attempts going back to last season, the second-longest active streak in the NFL.
Tucker said he tries to follow the example of Dawson and Stover on how to conduct himself in all situations.
"I think if you're always looking over your shoulder for the karma bug that's not good," Tucker said. "You never want to slip up and do something that will embarrass you or your family or your organization. Those are guys who have set an example. I can only hope to follow in their footsteps."
Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg has counseled Tucker this week about the unique complexities of kicking at Cleveland Browns Stadium, which can be unpredictable because of the occasionally sloppy field conditions and the fog coming off Lake Erie.
"Yeah, I heard plenty from [Rosburg], I heard a lot from Phil himself," Tucker said. "Phil told me and Jerry the field is a crapshoot. You never know what you will get until you get out there on the field. The weather can be a factor. There's a lake effect, fog and humidity.
"Fortunately, we have a grass field out there we can chew up a bit. We've had some moisture, certainly enough with Hurricane Sandy, so we can prepare for the environment in Cleveland as best as we can here and literally get the feet wet and get outsideand get some good work in."
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