More often than not, a college football player’s decision to enter the transfer portal is a risky one. There are several potential outcomes and suitors, and they never know with certainty if they’re going to find themselves in a better situation than the one they left behind. For Alabama’s Carl Tucker, it’s safe to say that it paid off in a major way.
Tucker recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his decision to transfer from North Carolina to Alabama for his senior season, winning a National Championship, what it was like to be coached by Nick Saban, and how surreal it was to have a front-row seat to DeVonta Smith’s Heisman-winning campaign.
JM: You should make everybody refer to you as “National Champion Carl Tucker” from now on. How does it feel?
CT: I’ve thought about that (laughs). I’m still not used to hearing those words in front of my name. It’s a very weird feeling. I never thought that I would get an opportunity to win a National Championship. It still feels surreal.
JM: It obviously paid off, but how do you reflect on your decision to transfer from North Carolina to Alabama for your final season?
CT: I look back on it and think it was a great decision. It was time to go. I spent five amazing years at North Carolina. It was time for something different. Why not attend the best college football school in the world? Alabama is the greatest program of all time. It was a great decision, the right decision for me. I knew that I would become a better football player at Alabama and that’s exactly what happened. I also got a National Championship out of the deal. You’re not going to hear me complain.
JM: It was obviously a short stint, but the program demands excellence as you sort of alluded to there. What was the biggest lesson you learned this past season?
CT: I learned that success doesn’t come cheap. If you’ve ever been on the outside looking in and wondered why Alabama is so good, I can tell you why. I experienced it first hand. It makes so much sense to me now. They just work so hard. The work that they put in at Alabama is unmatched by any other college football program. Of course, we had off days like any other program, but when it was time to grind, we were giving it our all. We were on top of the COVID-19 situation. We didn’t have any problems with the virus. Alabama is always thinking ahead. We were the best at handling that situation. It allowed us to continue working at our craft.
JM: Nobody can argue with the results. What was it like to play for coach Nick Saban?
CT: It was surreal. I still can’t wrap my head around it. It took until the middle of the season for it to really sink in (laughs). It took a while to get used to the pre and post-game speeches. It was a great experience to be coached by another college football legend.
JM: How would you describe your skill set as a tight end, and what are your favorite aspects of playing the position?
CT: I hang my hat on my physicality. I don’t think there are many tight ends in this draft class that are as physical and dominant at the line of scrimmage as I am. I feel like my physicality and explosive abilities are unmatched.
JM: What do you enjoy about blocking? You have some great experience as an in-line blocker.
CT: I find great satisfaction in seeing my running back run through a huge hole that I helped open up. If I help my runner go off for a long touchdown run off of my backside, that’s a great feeling. Knowing that I provided that hole for him to run through is the ultimate reward to me. It means I won my battle and that’s what I aim to do every single time I step on the field. If I get the job done, the play will be successful.
JM: How did you develop into a blocking specialist?
CT: I actually played wide receiver in high school. I had no idea what I was doing. I had never played tight end in my life. I didn’t even know to block. Coach Seth Littrell, who is now the head coach at North Texas, was at Chapel Hill as our tight ends coach. He taught me how to be physical. He played fullback at Oklahoma when they won a National Championship. He was the kind of person and coach that didn’t take plays off. It just doesn’t register in his mind. I adopted his attitude for the game. Those values were instilled in me from a young age. I got acclimated and used to being naturally physical.
JM: I love that. Did you have one teammate at Alabama that you really got along with?
CT: Major Tennison was one of our tight ends. He’s probably the person I got along with the most. He’s just an all-around great guy. He introduced me to everybody at the program. He gave me an opportunity to grow closer with everybody.
JM: What can you tell me about Mac Jones the person, the quarterback, and the leader?
CT: He’s such a relaxed person. He’s extremely goofy. He’s very funny. He loves to joke around on the field. But he’s a grinder and a hard worker as well. He’s a great player. He knows when it’s time to joke and when it’s time to get serious. He knows what he has to do when the game is on the line. Everybody in the locker room had a tremendous amount of confidence in him. He makes you feel really good when you’re on the field.
JM: You also had a front-row seat to DeVonta Smith’s Heisman winning season. That must have been pretty special.
CT: It was unbelievable. There were some plays in the middle of a game where Mac [Jones] would just throw a 50-yard bomb to him. DeVonta Smith was always wide open or he would make a crazy catch and make the entire defense look silly. All I could do is shake my head (laughs). It was so consistent that it felt automatic at times. It didn’t make any sense.
JM: I love that. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Carl. In closing, why should an NFL team use one of their draft picks on Carl Tucker?
CT: Carl Tucker is going to be a loyal, hard worker at the next level. I’m going to give the organization everything I have. I’ll do anything and everything that’s asked of me. I just want to help my team win.