During a coaching career that has taken him to various stops in college and the NFL over the course of the last 20 years, Mel Tucker has gained a great deal of respect for his character and ability to teach the game.
Those who know him best are excited to see him take on a new challenge.
Tucker, the defensive coordinator at Georgia the past three years, was officially announced as the new head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes on Wednesday.
“I’ve known Mel for well over 20 years and he is one of the brightest coaches in our profession,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in a press release from CU. “I think he will do an outstanding job as the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes. They are getting a guy with a great personality, who knows college football, works hard each and every day, and does it with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and positive energy.”
Saban has hired Tucker three different times, at Michigan State, LSU and Alabama. They most recently worked together in 2015, when the Crimson Tide won the national title. Tucker coached the Alabama defensive backs that season.
Following that championship season, Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was hired as the head coach of Georgia, and hired Tucker to coordinate the Bulldogs’ defense.
“One of my top priorities was to bring Mel Tucker in as defensive coordinator,” Smart said. “He is an exceptional coach, coordinator and trusted friend. Mel has been one of the major influences in the success we have had and we will certainly miss him. But I look forward to following his career and the opportunity he has at Colorado.”
Tucker played defensive back at Wisconsin from 1990-94 and has spent much of his career coaching defensive backs.
During his career, Tucker has coached or recruited nine players that went on to become first-round picks in the NFL draft. That list may soon grow longer, as Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker is a finalist for the Thorpe Award and potential first-round pick next spring.
“He groomed me into the player I am today,” Baker said Wednesday. “Being an NFL guy and coaching college for 20-plus years (combined), he taught me the ropes and I took it and ran with it.
“Coach Tucker, he’s a great guy, a great coach. He played a big role in the Georgia program. He’s going to go over there to Colorado to change the program around. I’m just happy he got an opportunity to be a head coach.”
Former CU linebacker Brian Iwuh played for Tucker in 2009 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Mel was great, a very good coach, just a solid guy who tells it like it is,” Iwuh said in a CU press release. “I enjoyed playing for Mel. He got along with all of us; everybody liked him and was fond of him. His big thing was, ‘scoop and score.’ He always wanted the defense to make an impact. Get after the ball, let’s score on defense.”
Another former Jaguar, Paul Posluszny, had high praise for Tucker, as well.
“I believe that Coach Tucker will absolutely make a great head coach, especially at the collegiate level,” Posluszny said. “He has great command, presence, and he’s very influential. He’s very structured, detailed, and organized, as well. I would have run through a brick wall if he asked me to.”
Legendary Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez, now the Badgers’ athletic director, saw potential in Tucker when he recruited him out of high school in 1990 and has watched Tucker grow throughout his career.
“Mel was a part of my first recruiting class at Wisconsin and helped us turn the program around,” Alvarez said through CU. “He is an outstanding individual and a really good football person. His background, the people and the programs he has worked for and the success he’s been a part of is very impressive. He’s been successful at both the NFL and college level. He is truly a quality individual and the people at Colorado are going to love Mel.”