Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 14: Mel Tucker, Head Football Coach at Michigan State University

Men’s Journal’s Everyday Warrior With Mike Sarraille is a new podcast that inspires individuals to live more fulfilling lives by having conversations with disrupters and high performers in all walks of life. In our fourteenth episode, we spoke to Mel Tucker, head football coach at Michigan State University.

Listen to the full episode above (scroll down for the transcript) and see more from this series below.

This interview has not been edited for length or clarity.


Mike Sarraille:
And welcome to the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior podcast. I’m your host, Mike Sarraille. This one actually is a first. We’re not live from… Usually, we record, Coach, at a bar called Whiskey Tango Foxtrot… I won’t tell you what that actually means. … in Austin, Texas. We’re actually coming live from Troppo in East Lansing with a man I highly respect, Mel Tucker, Head Coach of the Michigan State football team. Hey, first off, 11 and 2. Congrats on the season. That’s amazing, man.
Mel Tucker:
Yeah, thanks bro. It was a step in the right direction for us, but I’m excited to be with you, man.

Mike Sarraille:
And we are humbled to have you here. For those listening, Mel and I, and I will refer to you as coach because I hold that term dear. And we’re going to talk about that. Coach and I were able to sit down for about an hour and talk about leadership and culture, and much of this podcast is going to be the same thing, but I mean, you’ve had one hell of a career. I mean, from college football, playing at Wisconsin, to coaching. It’s interesting. You started at Michigan State with Nick Saban.

Mel Tucker:
I did. I did.

Mike Sarraille:
And now you’re back here, the NFL, but what most Michigan State fans never ask about or really explore is who’s Mel Tucker. Give us a background of where you’re born, your younger years, what led you here.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah, so I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and I went to Cleveland Heights High School, and I was a three sport guy there for quite some time

Mike Sarraille:
Three sport? What were the three sports?

Mel Tucker:
So, I was football, basketball, and baseball. And then, I just focused on football and basketball in high school. And I was very fortunate to get a scholarship to University of Wisconsin. I was in Barry Alvarez’s first recruiting class in 1990. We were one in 10 my freshman year, and it was crazy one in 10, five and six, five and six, and then, Rose Bowl. And so, I mean, that’s where I got my first real taste of turning a program around. I was right there. I saw Coach Alvarez do that at a place where not a lot of people thought that that would happen that way. And obviously, with Wisconsin, the rest is history, but I graduated in May of ’95 with a ag business degree.

Mel Tucker:
And in 1997, I began my coaching career here at Michigan State with Nick Saban, as a graduate assistant. Coach saban recruited me when I was in high school. Yeah. He was a head coach at the University of Toledo. I come home from school one day, and phone rings. I pick up, and he says, “Hey, Mel.” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “This is Nick Saban from the Houston Oilers.” I’m like, “Houston Oilers? I’m a senior in high school, man. What’s going on here?”

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
He goes on to say, “I just took the head job at Toledo where your dad played.” My dad’s in the Hall of Fame there for football and in baseball. “And you’re one of my top recruits, and I want to come see you.” So, that’s how our relationship started. He was regarded, at the time, as one of the best defensive back coaches in the game, college or pro. So, when I decided that I wanted to coach and be a defensive backs coach, I called Coach Saban. He was here at Michigan State, and he remembered me, and he hired me as one of his GAs. And that’s really how my coaching career started.

Mike Sarraille:
Do you consider Nick one of your foremost mentors?

Mel Tucker:
Oh yeah, absolutely. Three of the first four years in coaching, I was with Coach Saban. Yep. He laid the foundation for me in coaching, not just coaching, but recruiting, CEO, organization, building culture, that type of thing. It was two years here at Michigan State and his first year at LSU.

Mike Sarraille:
So, I want to go back because you said you were three sports. And it’s amazing. Sometimes, you end up in the sport that you don’t necessarily love the most. Look. Like Michael Jordan.

Mel Tucker:
Right.

Mike Sarraille:
The greatest basketball player in history without debate.

Mel Tucker:
I would agree.

Mike Sarraille:
And maybe that’s just because it was our era. I was watching him.

Mel Tucker:
Right.

Mike Sarraille:
But he loved baseball. What was your favorite sport?

Mel Tucker:
I love football.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
I really did. I was raised as a football player. In Ohio, as a boy, I don’t think you have a choice. I can’t remember making a conscious decision to play football. That’s just kind of what you do, and my dad played in college, and so, he kind of showed me the ropes early, but I love basketball. I loved baseball, but I will say, from an early age, I had a passion for football.

Mike Sarraille:
So, it sounds a lot like Texas, the Midland area. You’re growing up football, no matter what.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I’m a Cleveland Browns’ fan. I spent many days in the Municipal Stadium, in the Dawg Pound before it was branded the Dawg Pound and catching the bus to games and never leaving early, no matter how cold it was right there on the lake. And I mean the Kardiac Kids, Brian Sipe, all those guys. I mean, that’s how I grew up.

Mike Sarraille:
So, you did gloss over one thing. I’m going to bring it up. Because, of course, we do our research before we come out. You got recruited into the Canadian Football League out of Wisconsin.

Mel Tucker:
Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
But you came down with, was it chicken pox?

Mel Tucker:
I did. Yeah, I did. Yeah. So, I graduated from Wisconsin, and there was probably a two or three week period, maybe a week or so, where I had to go home before I reported to Hamilton. And during that time, my youngest brother, we’re all eight years apart, my youngest brother had the chicken pox back home with my parents. And so, I tried to stay away from him, obviously. And I thought I was good. And [inaudible] I get up to Hamilton, and about a week into the deal, realize this is not a good situation. So, that was pretty much the end of my, into my [inaudible]. I think I went from about 205 pounds to about 155 pounds.

Mike Sarraille:
You’re kidding me.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah, it was-

Mike Sarraille:
In the hospital, I’m assuming, if you were losing that much weight?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I went back home, and I think I had an allergic reaction to some medication where I lost a whole bunch of weight, but I was able to recover. But that ultimately kind of ended my coaching career, my playing career.

Mike Sarraille:
How did you deal with that? Because I mean, you had dedicated, and you have dedicated, your life to the sport, but at the time, I’m assuming at that time you just love to actually be on the field and play and to have to deal with a decision that, well, that door is now closed.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I mean, that was one of the toughest decisions that I ever had to make. I didn’t want to be one of those guys that was bouncing around from team to team, league to league, working out wherever, trying to make it. I just decided that, “Hey, this is not in the cards for me. And it’s time for me to move on and do something else.” But probably the most difficult thing for me was to tell my dad that, “Hey, I’m hanging it up.” And his reaction was the opposite of what I thought it was going to be. He wasn’t disappointed. He was actually kind of relieved and happy for me, like, “Okay.” He was like, “I get it. It ended for me. It’s ended for you. And there’s more to life than actually playing a game of football.” And he was very supportive, and I think he was just happy that I had enough confidence in myself to know that I could move on and do something else.

Mike Sarraille:
I know there’s going to be a lot of young Michigan State students that listen to this. Now, this next part of this story is… I love this. So, you ended up, as a next job, selling meat and steaks from door to door.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah, I did. I did

Mike Sarraille:
Explain to me, in your head, what’s going on? I mean, I don’t want to say, “Hey, was that a low point in your life?”

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
But I mean, I’m sure that’s not what you had envisioned.

Mel Tucker:
Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
For those young students that step out of the university, even your football players where they’re not going to go onto the NFL.

Mel Tucker:
Right.

Mike Sarraille:
I mean, do you tell them about that story? And I be even more, what were you feeling, but what did you learn from that job right there?

Mel Tucker:
Oh, that might have been one of the best jobs that I ever had, quite frankly. So yeah. I mean, I actually was a volunteer football and basketball coach at my high school and a substitute teacher. And then, I needed to make money. I was living at home with my parents, and I answered the ad in the paper. Back in the day, you look in the paper, the ads, and it said, “Cash at the end of every day.” So, I go to this warehouse on the west side, and these guys had these pickup trucks with these freezers on the back of them, and they were having sales meetings every morning teaching folks how to sell food and said, “Shoot, I can do that.” And I went out with a guy on the truck. One day, he says, “I’ll let you go out with me on one condition.” He says, “Don’t say a word.” He says, “Because when you walk in, they’re going to think you don’t know anything. But if you start talking, they’ll know you don’t know anything.”

Mike Sarraille:
Good advice. Good advice.

Mel Tucker:
Exactly. So, I saw the guy. I mean, the guy emptied his truck in about three hours, and I said, “No, that’s definitely something I can do.” And I started to do that. Actually it was, I got the food on consignment, and I actually shopped around and found a better deal on the food, a better price. And I kind of really went into business for myself, actually. And I leased a truck, and I go down and pull the food out of Gateway coast storage and go grab the dry ice, and I go hit it. And I did that for over a year. And I read a lot of sales books, and it was direct sales, no advertising, door-to-door. Learn how to get repeat business to get through those winters in Cleveland, Ohio.

Mike Sarraille:
Well, salesmen and sales women have a particular set of skills. They’re very personable. Did you consider yourself a personal guy before you went into that role? Or is that something you had to work on?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah, I thought I was a nice guy and a friendly guy, kind of reserved, on the shy side. But I had to learn quickly that I had to get out of that mode because when you go to a door you’re going to sell, they don’t know that you’re reserved. They don’t know you’re shy. They don’t know that you’ve already knocked on 50 doors. All they know is what they see at that particular moment, like who you are and what you’re all about. At first, I didn’t have very much product knowledge. It was all enthusiasm. So, I survived on enthusiasm, and then once my product knowledge kind of caught up, then I was kind of cooking with gas. And so, energy, enthusiasm, kind of wins the day. And I learned to bring the energy again. Like we talked about earlier, you have to do things based upon what needs to be done, not based upon how you feel all the time.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah. Feelings… It seems like our culture is really defaulting to feelings. And ultimately we know that it’s all about outcomes.

Mel Tucker:
It’s all about outcomes.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah. And we’re going to get to that. Did you learn to deal with rejection?

Mel Tucker:
Oh, man. Oh. I mean, I’m not even sure if that describes it. I mean, it was beyond rejection. I mean, my goal every day was to knock on a hundred doors. That was my goal. In direct sales and just cold calling, you’re going to get told no a lot. And sometimes, it’s not going to be very polite, in terms of how they tell you to, “Get the hell out of here,” you know what I mean? I’m knocking on doors. Right? And so, the rejection part was something that I really had to… I hadn’t had a lot of that. I mean, I hadn’t been told no very many times.

Mike Sarraille:
Because you were highly recruited.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
Canadian Football League. Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. You’re not getting toldm “No,” or “You’re not good enough,” or whatever it is. And so, I had to handle that. I learned that it wasn’t personal. It wasn’t personal. And if I knocked on enough doors, if I was relentless, and I just would just not stop, then I can get the job done. But when they did let me in, when they would say, “Okay, let me see what you got,” after I’ve knocked on 40 doors, like, “I got to make that sale.” Like, “This has got to happen. I got to bring it. I got to close it.” And so, it was quite an experience. And I mean, I would actually recommend that to almost anyone to do it at least for a year especially in the Midwest. Go through all the seasons. And you learn a lot about yourself when you’re in any type of direct sales.

Mike Sarraille:
Did you ever calculate your success rate starting out and where you ended up towards the end of the year?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I mean, when I first started, I was just trying to sell.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
And I didn’t understand, really, the business aspect of it and the metrics and really kind of keeping track and how to evaluate. My goal was to get the food out on consignment and get it off the truck. I didn’t want to take food home at the end of the day, but then I realized as I went, that you had to have skill. You had to have technique. You had to have process. How do you develop repeat business? And the time of year, the time of month, what area you were in based upon what time of month, the first and the 15th, and all those types of deals. And I kind of traveled around. I would go as far as Buffalo. I went to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. I would connect with some other guys across the country that were doing that. I went down to Daytona Beach one weekend and sold [inaudible]. Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
So, always leading somewhere with this. Is there anything you learned on that job that has translated to being the head coach of a major program?

Mel Tucker:
Oh, yeah. I mean, I learned a lot. I mean, for me, once I started coaching, like in college, and I saw the recruiting from the other side of it, not just as a player, but from a coaching side, I said, “You got to be kidding me. This is not door-to-door. We have marketing. We have facilities to sell. We have coaching staff to sell. We have a stadium to sell. I mean, we have all these things. We have brochures.” I mean, it was a [inaudible] say, “We have all of these tools. This is not that hard guys, like to get players, compared to knocking on doors. That’s kind of how I thought about it in my mind.

Mel Tucker:
And so, it really helped me in recruiting, how to handle objections, how to meet people where they are, mirroring, and things like that I learned just pretty much going door-to-door. And the diversity, the types of homes, the doors I would knock on. I would do businesses, small businesses. I would go out in the country, and I would be in the projects, and anywhere in between. It’d be a half million dollar home, million dollar home. And then, [inaudible] Town, I would hit a trailer park.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
So, you learn how to relate to all types of people, [inaudible] and you never judge a book by its cover.

Mike Sarraille:
Ain’t that the truth? It’s amazing how you could even find the positivity in what wasn’t the highlight of your life because people are not going to remember you for that.

Mel Tucker:
Sure.

Mike Sarraille:
They’re going to remember for the programs that you’ve built. So, before we get to our mid rule break, I do have to hit this one. Usually, we want to keep family out of it, but… So, as we were reading about you, you met your wife… Well, you talked to her for a little bit, met her on a blind date.

Mel Tucker:
Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
And you proposed on the blind date.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah, yeah. That’s true. I mean, I’m a guy, I believe in quick decisions, quick implementation, and quick execution. And if you’re going down the wrong path, then change direction and start up again. And so, and I was actually more so like that when I was younger than I actually am now, but I still believe in that what information you have and then make a decision to go with it.

Mike Sarraille:
Well, it worked out.

Mel Tucker:
Sure did.

Mike Sarraille:
I mean, it worked out and you got a beautiful family now, so let’s get to the mid rule break. And we ask our guests, because again, this whole podcast is about learning, learning from high performers like yourself and how we can apply that to our own lives. But we also learn from failure.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
I’m a believer that the most learning comes from failure. It’s actually the greatest mentor, if you can learn to erase it and learn to move on. So, biggest regret of your life?

Mel Tucker:
Biggest regret of my life? I would say probably when I decided in the ninth grade not to play baseball. I actually started like the preseason training with the team. And then, I decided that I just wanted to focus on football and basketball, but it was something that I started and I didn’t finish. I look back on it. I’ve never really done that. And the game of baseball was a big part of my life since I can remember. And it really would’ve helped me, not that I wanted to go to college and be a baseball player, but my dad would always tell me, “Baseball is 75% mental and 25% physical.” He would always tell me that it’s a thinking man’s game.

Mike Sarraille:
Yes.

Mel Tucker:
And so, that’s a aspect of kind of really of my development that I think I kind of missed out on.

Mike Sarraille:
Why did you eliminate baseball, not basketball?

Mel Tucker:
Well, it’s a lot more fun to play basketball in open gym and things like that, as opposed to-

Mike Sarraille:
Much more active? [inaudible].

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. It was much more active, and basketball at my high school was very, very competitive, and so was football, but basketball was… You had to make the team. Everyone that went out for basketball didn’t make the team at my high school. And in my neighborhood, in Cleveland Heights, University Heights, to be on the Heights High basketball team was a big deal. And so, every open gym that you could be a part of, and you almost kind of had to be there all the time to even have a chance to be on a squad. And I didn’t really want to miss that opportunity. But looking back on it now, I could have done all three.

Mike Sarraille:
Hardest decision you’ve ever had to make in your life.

Mel Tucker:
Ooh. The hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, I would say it was leaving Colorado after one season. That was a tough… It was anguish on my part. And I’ll just leave it at that.

Mike Sarraille:
Well, I can see that being a very, very tough decision. Let me ask you this, not to dive into that.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah, sure.

Mike Sarraille:
Was that a singular decision or did you involve the family in that decision?

Mel Tucker:
Oh, the family was involved, obviously, especially the boys. I mean, we never been anywhere more than four years. And I think my son has been to three or four high schools, and he just graduated last weekend.

Mike Sarraille:
Congrats.

Mel Tucker:
Thanks. I appreciate it. The time goes so fast. I mean, it’s incredible. But yeah, there were lots of people that I really trust that care about me that really helped me sort through it, but it’s just really tough because I actually recruited two classes of guys when, even though I was there for only one season, but I had two classes under my belt there, and I’m a people guy. And I had a lot of friendships, close friendships I had developed outside of the team, outside the program. And I felt like we were moving in the right direction, so that was really tough for me. Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
Well, I mean, that’s why you’re paid to do what you do to make the hard decisions.

Mel Tucker:
Sure.

Mike Sarraille:
But if they’re your true friends, then they’re still there and I’m sure they’re [inaudible].

Mel Tucker:
Oh, and they are.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
And they are. And I realize that now, but sometimes when you’re in the moment, sometimes you can’t see some of those things. And so, but yeah, I mean, it is always tough. I mean, I remember leaving LSU to go to Ohio State. Coach Saban, I was there with him, and he was my mentor. And I was going pretty much back home, two and a half hours from my parents and things like that. And that was, I mean, that was a tough decision. I mean, those are, those decisions are not easy, but again I take ownership of those decisions that I ultimately made and that I have to live with and I have to make them work.

Mike Sarraille:
Well, Mel, that brings us to our mid rule break, and we will be right back. And we are back with Mel Tucker, Head Football Coach of Michigan State University. So again, last season, as we said, 11 and two record, you came in on in 2020. Unfortunately, COVID hit and you guys had a short season.

Mel Tucker:
Sure.

Mike Sarraille:
But I want to focus the last half of this podcast, because this is so applicable to anyone, to a father or a mother, a business leader, a department leader, a military leader. And it is funny. So, you talk to a lot of business leaders, and you talk to a lot of military leaders, and it’s like we automatically default to head football coaches. I mean the Vince Lombardi’s, the Nick Sabans, the Belichecks, the Mel Tuckers. You guys sort of set a bar for leadership and culture. And that’s why I want to focus on that. But you stepped in, and when somebody’s hired as a head coach, it’s usually because one of two things. One, the coach just sort of timed out. He wants to retire. Or the program is not where it needs to be.

Mel Tucker:
Sure. Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
I mean, you’ve got a time horizon. And we talked about this off camera. You can’t come in and say, “I’ve got a five-year plan, and this is what it is.”

Mel Tucker:
No.

Mike Sarraille:
Because you said you’d get booed out of the press conference.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. You can’t do that. The days of the five-year plan, I think are over. I really do. at the Power Five level certainly.

Mike Sarraille:
Is college football a little more brutal than the NFL where maybe the owner will give that time horizon to a coach he loves rather than, and this is my personal opinion. I’m not asking you to reinforce it. Sometimes it seems like the boosters and the alumnus at certain universities can be just brutal. They expect immediate results.

Mel Tucker:
Well, I really believe that it depends on the place. I mean, every place is a little different, and oftentimes, there might be an owner or an AD or a president that would love to stick with you that want, that believes in you and wants to stick with you. But the masses just won’t allow it. You know what I mean? And I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that where a head coach is cut loose and not because the owner or the AD or the president wanted to do it. It’s because they felt like they had to do it. And so, but certainly the time horizon, I think it’s a shorter run runway than it used to be.

Mel Tucker:
And I think you see a few more one and dones in the NFL, than you see at the college level, but either way, there needs to be a sense of urgency to get the program moving in the right direction. You have to show improvement. That’s the one thing. And people need to be able to see it. You just can’t talk about it. People need to be able to actually see it with their own eye and say, “This is moving in the right direction. This is better. Recruiting is better. The brand of football in the field is better. The language that we’re hearing coming out of the building with the players and the coaches is resonating. There’s some alignment here. We like what we’re seeing.”

Mel Tucker:
That has to happen, but it’s really, for me, it’s not so much about the external expectations. It’s that I have an internal clock. I have expectations for myself personally, and then as a football coach and for the program. This is where I have to evaluate where do I think our potential is, what is our ceiling, and then how quickly do I think that we can reach our full potential, and then, and maintain that and be consistent and compete at the highest level year year in and year out.

Mel Tucker:
And so, personally, I don’t believe in self-imposed limitations. I just can’t deal with that. And so, it’s always, “Why not me? Why not us?” And I’m not going to put any limitations on myself or on our program. And so, with that mindset and that thought process, then the sky’s the limit. Being the best is attainable. So, at that point, it’s game on every day. Like how are we going to get there? How long is it going to take? And you literally have to get better in some aspect every single day. It’s the aggregation of marginal gains, everybody getting a little bit better every single day.

Mike Sarraille:
One step at a time [inaudible] is what we love to say. And that’s a whole mantra of the everyday warrior is just, “Every day is a battle.”

Mel Tucker:
Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
Just get 1% better. It does not mean every single day is a step forward.

Mel Tucker:
That’s right.

Mike Sarraille:
Some days, it’s two steps back, but that’s life. [inaudible]. If all your personal friends who knew you extremely well were sitting in the audience right now, would they say, “Yeah, Mel holds himself to an extremely high bar.”

Mel Tucker:
I would think so. I would think the people that know me the best would say that they probably worry about me a little bit.

Mike Sarraille:
Would they say you take it sometimes too far?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I get that quite a bit. “You need to make sure you get some sleep. Make sure you take a little time for yourself. Make sure you keep it in perspective. There’s a process. Rome wasn’t built in a day.” That type of deal. And I really appreciate that because people care about you. They love you. You can’t see your own eyebrows, so they kind of see some things that I can’t see, but at the same time, I know what I know.

Mike Sarraille:
And you don’t know what you don’t know.

Mel Tucker:
And I don’t know what I don’t know. That’s right.

Mike Sarraille:
Let me ask you this because I’ve noticed, and I’d be interested in your answer. Notice this amongst very high performers that hold themselves to sometimes what seems like a overly-high bar. Do you take time to celebrate victories personally?

Mel Tucker:
I do. But sometime the victories aren’t like the obvious victory. It may not be obvious to someone outside looking in.

Mike Sarraille:
Like, obviously, beating Michigan two years in a row?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I mean, certainly, I mean, that’s a big game for us. That’s our biggest game. That’s my biggest game. I mean, that’s the most important game of the season.

Mike Sarraille:
That’s the national rivalry. I mean, almost. Like

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
[inaudible] a lot of America tunes in for that one.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I mean, I lean into that. I mean, I said that from day one. I mean, that’s a game that we need to win. But then, very quickly after that game, it’s like, “Okay, now what’s next?” And you have to move on quickly. But I do believe in celebrating victories. I believe in celebrating the small victories. Some of the victories that may seem small or insignificant to someone on the outside, I know personally that this was big, just to be able to get this done, be able to make this higher, or be able to acquire this resource is huge. Because you know how much you put into it, and you know how hard it is to get it done. And I do believe in celebrating those things. I mean, that’s that’s a great part about it. I mean, you do get a chance to celebrate and then kind of reevaluate and say, “Okay. Now, what’s next?”

Mike Sarraille:
I know you’re big on leadership and culture, especially culture.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
And that you’re trying to build an organization of cultural warriors, which we talked about today. You step into a program like Michigan State, which is a massive program, and you’re expected to turn it around, when it pertains to culture, where the hell do you start on that one?

Mel Tucker:
Huh. I really start with the, with the staff, with the people. Culture is how you live and behave every single day. And those behaviors create outcomes, and those actions create outcomes, and those are people, and you win with people. You really do. And so it starts with the coaching staff and the support staff, the analyst, the quality control, the GAs, the strength and conditioning coaches, nutrition, player engagement, operations. I don’t want to be the smartest guy in the room, but I need folks with me that we have alignment on like kind of how we see the game of football, how we see organizations, how we see culture, how we see accountability, how we see urgency, how we see detail.

Mel Tucker:
And I’m very, very fortunate. I’m surrounded by a great bunch of men and women who see culture and organizations and kind of winning this the same way as me, even though we are very diverse and we have different skill sets, and we leverage each other’s skill sets and abilities for the team, we’re different, but we’re the same. I always ask this question, “Is he one of us? Is she one of us?”

Mike Sarraille:
People talk about alignment quite a lot. In fact, we were talking about it in the car today. Does alignment necessarily mean agreement?

Mel Tucker:
No, no. I mean, so at the end of the day, I have to make a decision. And once the decision is made, then when we leave that room, we all got to be on the same page. And that’s non-negotiable. But agreement, there’s going to be agreement, there’s going to be disagreement. There’s going to be debate, and it’s going to be healthy. It’s needed. If there’s not debate, if there’s not differences of opinion, and I’m talking about like strong passionate, something’s wrong.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
We’re not paying attention. Maybe we don’t care enough, or I don’t have enough diversity on the staff. I don’t need 10 of me. I need people that can maybe be strong where I’m not as strong.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
We can definitely think differently and bring some different ideas to the table. You always got to have that person in the room that’s, you know that person. You always got to have that person room that’s not that negative, but it is going to shoot everything down all the time. The devil’s advocate person. [inaudible] You got to, you got to have that person.

Mike Sarraille:
We call that red selling in the military.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah. Yeah. And so, within your culture, you sort of demand that, but to a point?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah, I promote it. I mean, I want that. I ask for it. I mean, it is necessary because how can you have a great organization, how can you have great culture, when you don’t have that, when you don’t have people that love each other enough to trust each other enough to feel like they can’t where they can’t speak up. I mean, if people in our organization don’t feel like they can speak up, then I’m a poor leader. And that’s something that I’m mindful of. And sometimes, I’ve got some guys on my staff that say, “Hey, coach. I mean, I think you need to take a look at this,” or, “Some of the guys are wondering about this,” or, “Some of the guys are wondering about that.” Or I’ll have consultants come in from the outside and evaluate and do surveys and do one-on-ones with folks. And then, give a report, give me a three or four page report.

Mel Tucker:
And sometimes, I don’t like what I see there, but it is what it is now. Now, what am I going to do about it? And so, but it’s all about becoming the best and maximizing our potential and making sure that we’re doing the right things on a day-to-day basis to get to where we want to go.

Mike Sarraille:
It’s amazing, a third-party perspective that’s not emotionally Involved in the organization to give just a very fair, sort of a subjective viewpoint.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
But I mean, we say, and I know we talked about this earlier today, in the military, we have something called a senior enlisted advisor that’s not an officer.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
And usually we consider it the wise old man. And what’s key to that is, “Tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.”

Mel Tucker:
That’s right.

Mike Sarraille:
And that’s sometimes hard. So, Mel, I have no doubt there’s strong alignment amongst the coaching staff and the supporting staff. I mean, you’re also dealing with 30, 40, 50 year olds.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
But for a young, 18 to 23 year old, who, if I’m remembering back to my days, I knew freaking everything. How do you shape that part of the culture? How do you get them to buy in? How do you get them to trust you? Because I remember when I was, I wouldn’t say I didn’t trust my dad when I was 16, but there was I didn’t want to listen to him.

Mel Tucker:
Sure.

Mike Sarraille:
How do you get these young studs, and they’re all studs, to buy into what you’re selling?

Mel Tucker:
It’s more difficult when you come in initially, and the guys that you’re coaching are not guys that trust you. They don’t know you. You didn’t recruit them. It’s easier when you’re recruiting guys, because people are attracted to you’re recruiting guys because they want to be a part of the culture. There is alignment. That’s why they want to come. But how do you do that? You said it. It’s trust, and it starts with we have to communicate.

Mel Tucker:
I have to communicate to the players that, “I see you as a person. I see you as a human being. I see you as an individual. Football is what you do. It’s not who you are. And I’m here for you. I want you to win in life, period. I’m going to be here. Okay? So, let me help you get what you want out of this deal.” And then, once we communicate that, then myself and our staff, we have to demonstrate that every day. It’s all about connection, authentic relationships, one-on-one time, time invested with young men, not just in the meeting room, not just on the field, but you know, off the field. And it’s not always easy.

Mel Tucker:
And you mentioned listening. You’d be surprised at what you can learn if you could just listen to what these guys are saying, because sometimes they’re right in some of the stuff that they’re saying. But that’s how you… They know you’re going to listen to them. They know you care.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
And they know that you’re willing to invest in them. And I tell them, “Hey, when you do good, I do good. When you do bad, I do bad.” So, we’re actually in the same boat.

Mike Sarraille:
I think our brain is hardwired to see this hierarchy-

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
… where if I’m a coach, if I’m a boss, I’m mainly speaking at the person.

Mel Tucker:
Sure.

Mike Sarraille:
And it’s not a two-way conversation.

Mel Tucker:
Right.

Mike Sarraille:
Let me go to this. Because I know in your office, and every boss says, “I have an open-door policy,” but I’d say about 90% of them are full of you know what, because if you do come in, they’re usually like, “Get out. I’m busy.” You’ve got some jars full of treats, snacks. What is the purpose behind those jars that sit in your office?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I mean, I want the guys and staff, as well. And sometimes the staff, they come in and grab the snacks and candy more than the players. But I want the players to know without a shadow of a doubt that they can come into my office anytime for anything. And it’s an environment that’s safe for them. It’s comfortable for them. It’s like a family deal, and I’m not their dad. I’m not a parent, but I’m as close to that as you can get. And when a young man can come into my office whether he’s got an appointment or he is unannounced, impromptu, and sit down and really kind of exhale and have a conversation, it could be something that’s really kind of just shooting the bull, or it could be a really tough deal. They can do that and know that I’m not going to judge them. I’m not going to judge them.

Mike Sarraille:
Empathy.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I was once in their shoes. And I mean, if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done half of the stupid stuff that I did back in the day, but I mean, they need to have the head coach in their corner. It’s important. It’s important for them to know. And it’s not about being buddy buddy with the guys. That’s not it at all. I’m a player’s coach. I consider myself a player’s coach, but I’m a strict disciplinarian at the same time but-

Mike Sarraille:
Is it a disciplinarian or is it just simply holding people accountable?

Mel Tucker:
I mean, it’s holding people accountable, and discipline is doing what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it, the way you’re supposed to do it, and understand why it’s important to get it done a certain way. That’s our definition of discipline. But it’s love and discipline. If you have love and discipline and it’s authentic, then you can pretty much get anything done with any guy, but it’s not easy. It takes time, and it’s work. You got to care.

Mike Sarraille:
You use a word that I don’t think is used enough. Love. When I speak to organizations about the military, when they have preconceived notions, they think it’s just all discipline and accountability.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
And I’m like, “No, if you want to know how we lead in the military, we lead through love. And the highest form of compassion is accountability.”

Mel Tucker:
Right.

Mike Sarraille:
If your kids do something as a parent, what do you do? You hold them accountable.

Mel Tucker:
That’s right.

Mike Sarraille:
Not from a standpoint of just punishment.

Mel Tucker:
Right.

Mike Sarraille:
But teaching them in order to become competent, good human beings that contribute to society or whatever team they’re a part of.

Mel Tucker:
That’s right. I agree. I mean, punishment, that’s a tricky thing because you have to change the behavior, and if you’re not changing the behavior, then you’re not effective as a coach.

Mike Sarraille:
No.

Mel Tucker:
If you’re trying to correct something, just punishment, whatever that form of punishment is, if it’s not changing the behavior, then you’re not coaching. You know? So, it’s more so you have to teach. Coaching is teaching. And if you can teach, a player can learn. So, how do you meet this player where he is? The delivery of the information, sometimes you got to take couple runs at a guy. Sometimes it doesn’t work the first, second, third or fourth time. Tell them what you told them. Tell them a thousand times, but sometimes you got to tell them a different way. And if you can do that and build the trust and keep coming at guys and just have empathy, they know that you love them because of the time that you spend with them. They know that because there’s only so much time in the day. I have an hourglass in my office, and sometimes I take the hourglass-

Mike Sarraille:
No kidding.

Mel Tucker:
And I turn it up and I say, “Hey, listen. This sand is going this way. It ain’t going that way. We can’t get this time back. Okay? We got the same amount of time in the day. I got 24 hours. You got 24 hours. We got the same amount of time. And I’m investing my time in you right now.”

Mike Sarraille:
You have a title that military leaders, business leaders, government leaders, are all trying to attain. Coach. Is it lost in you, I mean, just how precious that title is?

Mel Tucker:
Ill tell you what. I’ve always had reverence for my coaches. My dad was my first coach. He was my little league baseball coach. And I mean, my coach, I don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for my teachers in school, but my coaches. I don’t know where I would be. I mean, because coaches see you when you’re at your worst. They see you-

Mike Sarraille:
When you’re most vulnerable, as well.

Mel Tucker:
When you’re most vulnerable, when you’re hurt, when you don’t have confidence. They see you when your girlfriend broke up with you, but you still got to go to practice and all that type. They see you when you got beat for a touchdown. I mean, they see you in the locker room after a loss. So, I mean, the coaches see it all, but we love them all the way through it.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
And so, that’s the importance of coaching. And a coach can a coach can hurt a guy, you know.

Mike Sarraille:
That’s the power.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. A coach can hurt a guy. And that’s something that you always have to remember and keep in mind that, again, “I see you as a person.” Okay? I got a son that’s 18 years old. I got a son that’s 20 years old. Like, “Okay, this is my son here.” Okay? Accountability? Yes. Confront and demand? Yes. Discipline? Yes. Okay? But how am I going to help you. You never want to leave them bleeding in the street, man.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah. So, roughly, how many people do you usually have on a roster?

Mel Tucker:
On the roster? We have about 120.

Mike Sarraille:
Players?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. About 85 guys on scholarship and the balance of those guys [inaudible].

Mike Sarraille:
In a good year, 15 may make it into the NFL.

Mel Tucker:
That would be a phenomenal year.

Mike Sarraille:
Phenomenal year.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
So, most will go on to enter into the private sector or graduate college and have to go find a job.

Mel Tucker:
Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
To what degree do you feel you’re prepping these young men for life? Or what role can a coach truly play in that?

Mel Tucker:
Well, I mean, again, what they hear from me and they hear from our coaches, like, “Hey, I see you as a person. Football is what you do. It’s not who you are.”

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
And we have real conversations with guys about, “Hey. Life beyond football, what do you want to do? Where are you at? Where do you see yourself? How can we help you get there? What are you doing every day to get towards that goal?” When they know it’s important to us, then it becomes even more important to them. And so, we work really hard to help our guys develop, to feel career development is a big part of what we’re passionate about. And we’re not where we want to be, but we’re working hard, and we have people that are dedicated to that in our program, in our organization. We have curriculum that we teach in-house and develop in-house where we pour into our guys from the day that they get here to…

Mel Tucker:
I tell you what, because it’s a tough place to be. It’s a tough place to be when you’re in a position where you’re no longer on a team, you’re no longer playing, and you’ve never been in that situation. You haven’t been in that situation your entire life, and you don’t know what you’re going to do, and your entire identity, self-worth, everything, is tied up in being a ball player, and now you don’t have ball. Where are you? That’s a tough spot to be in.

Mike Sarraille:
Coach. Coach. I’m only laughing because you just described what it’s like to be a career, special operations guy or a career military guy. That’s you had a tribe, that’s all you knew for your adult life. And then all of a sudden, unfortunately, you’re now 40 or 45 getting out, and you lose that [inaudible], and you lose that, which it becomes. Being a ball player from high school and having the ability to compete at Division 1, Division III, Division III, it doesn’t matter.

Mel Tucker:
Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
It becomes part of your DNA.

Mel Tucker:
It is. I mean, a lot of these kids, I ask them in recruiting, like, “When did you start playing ball?” Some of these guys started playing organized football when they were five years old.

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
That’s all they know. I mean, prescribed time, “This is when you practice. This is when you lift. This is when you do this. This is when you go to [inaudible].” I mean, you do all these things, and then when they don’t have that… And then, some of the relationships disappear when the game disappears too, which is tough for guys. And so, I think it’s critically important that our guys are developed to a point where they going to play as long as they can, play as long as you can, but they know without a shadow of a doubt, “When my playing days are over, I have excellent opportunities.”

Mike Sarraille:
They have the fundamentals to succeed in life, no matter what.

Mel Tucker:
“And I have the fundamentals to succeed, and I’m ready for whatever.” And that’s our job. We’ve got to get that done for these kids.

Mike Sarraille:
I want to get to questions from the audience, but as I’m taking notes and I’m learning, this is what I foresee, not to forecast your death, but here lies Mel Tucker, and on the tombstone, it says, “Live life relentlessly and with a sense of urgency.” You keep saying relentless, and I know that’s become sort of the mantra for Spartan football. What is it about relentless and urgency? I mean, what are your definitions of those? I mean, it sounds like it’s part of your fabric.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I mean, I think it just comes from getting knocked down so many times and then having to get back up, that you understand that if you’re going to make it in this world, if you’re going to be successful, if you’re going to finish first, you’re going to stand at the top, you have to be relentless. You have to be high velocity. You have to be nonstop. And it’s never going to end. I mean, you’re never there. It’s never going to end.

Mel Tucker:
My goal, when I started coaching, my mindset was I want to get done in one year where it would take a normal person three years to do. And so, that’s how I worked. And so, that’s urgency. That’s that’s attention to detail. That’s the efficiency. That’s finding a better way. Sleep fast. Hit the ground running type deal. And then never quitting. Never giving up. Keep clawing. Keep fighting. Keep finding a way. And really, there’s no opportunity for complacency or anything like that because you’re never there.

Mike Sarraille:
There are no truer words, even when you’re number one, and you’re standing on top of the mountain. That doesn’t stop. And we’ve seen prize fighters. I love boxing in the sense that the prize fighters, when they get to number one, with the exception of a few guys.

Mel Tucker:
Sure.

Mike Sarraille:
Like Mayweather, he’s proven he’s got it.

Mel Tucker:
Right. That’s right.

Mike Sarraille:
But we’ve seen the greats like Tyson just, they change the way they train.

Mel Tucker:
Right.

Mike Sarraille:
Life is also different because they have a whole lot of money.

Mel Tucker:
Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
Everyone’s coming at them for something, and they fall from the top.

Mel Tucker:
Yep. It’s really tough. My dad, he always tells me, he tells me this now. He say, “You got to go back, and you got to tell yourself your life story. You got to go back. You got to.” And I constantly go back. He says, “Go all the way back to 10510 Park Lane Drive, Apartment 108. Start there.

Mike Sarraille:
No kidding.

Mel Tucker:
And take it all the way.

Mike Sarraille:
In fact, you still remember that?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Right there. Apartment 108. “And take it all the way up until the current moment.” And if that doesn’t motivate you, then nothing will.

Mike Sarraille:
That’s powerful. Always remember where you came from.

Mel Tucker:
That’s right.

Mike Sarraille:
And the journey. Well, I want to open it up to any questions from the audience. We’ve got a microphone.

Speaker 3:
Thanks for doing this. Coach, you talked a little bit about your timeline when you got here and developing the program, and I think it’s kind of interesting. A lot of teams, pro and college, are begging their fan bases for patience. This was sort of the reverse. Your fan base was preaching patience to you, and you were telling them to kind of leave it alone. In your head, did you, even as ambitious as you are seeing 11 win season and what is really your first year, I know you downplay that, but that was your first year. I was ready for the parade at seven and five if we got there. You had 11 wins. Did even you think that was possible?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. I mean, our goal just every year is to win every game on the schedule. You got to play the games, and we actually had T-shirts made for our players after our second scrimmage in preseason camp that said, they had destination on the front and they had the GPS coordinates of Indianapolis on the back. This was before we even played the game. I mean, we believe that, inside our building, that we were capable of having that type of success if we did what we were capable of doing, if we were able to stay healthy, if we were able to continue to get better and continue to grow as a team. And so, we weren’t surprised, but at the same time, we don’t take it for granted.

Mel Tucker:
We know what it took to be able to get there. And then, we know how much distance there is between where we were and then where we need to go. And so, we’re just very realistic about it, but we don’t like to talk about it so much. We talk about the process and about the work and the actions we have to do day-to-day. It’s the journey along the way. But again, I don’t believe in self-imposed limitations, and I’m not going to let anyone put a limitation on me. And I’m for sure not going to put a limitation on our players and on our program. I mean, let’s get what we can get.

Speaker 4:
Coach, you’re very intentional about your culture and how you work to build that at MSU. And it is not just head coach and players. There are a lot of different people from your coaching staff, to your players, to the admin staff, to the operational staff, the support staff, that touch your program and affect culture. What would you say are one of the top one or two behaviors that are non-negotiables for the culture that you’re trying to establish? And additionally, how do you go about aligning that behavior, from you at the top, all the way through your organization, to make sure that remains a non-negotiable in your culture?

Mike Sarraille:
That’s like a graduate level question right there.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. Yeah. That is.

Mike Sarraille:
That’s not an undergrad student.

Mel Tucker:
I got a public school education on the east side of Cleveland, man, but… No, but yeah. So, one of the non-negotiables is negativity, especially verbal negativity language. We don’t preach being positive. That’s not something that… We’re not into that. I’m actually against unearned positivity. You’re down 16 against the school down the road at halftime, I mean, like what’s positive about that. It’s not, “Okay guys. It’s okay. Rah, rah.” No, I mean, what do we need to do? Right? What’s the next right step. But negativity… And we know positivity does not work all the time, especially when it’s unearned, but we know negativity has a negative effect 100% of the time. Negative thoughts are very powerful.

Mel Tucker:
Verbalizing a negative thought is seven to 10 times more powerful than just thinking it. Because just thinking something, just having negative thoughts affects you negatively, but when you verbalize it, it not only affects you, but it affects people around you who hear that. So, something that’s non-negotiable in our program is we tell guys, “Don’t say dumb things out loud. Just don’t don’t let me hear it. Just keep it to yourself.” That’s one thing.

Mel Tucker:
The other thing is we are a confront and demand organization, what basically means we have standards. The standards are the standards. And if we’re not behaving and performing at a standard, whatever it is, then we have to confront that immediately, right there on the spot. We do not wait. You can’t wait later on in the day or after practice or after the game or see if it’s going to get better. That’s not acceptable.

Mel Tucker:
You have to address it right then. And confronting it, it may not necessarily be like ripping someone or something like that, but you have to address it. You have to address it, and you have to see it. If a guy’s shirt’s not tucked in in practice, well, hey, you got to address it right then. “Hey, tuck your shirt in.” That’s nonnegotiable. We don’t walk on the field. If a guy’s walking off the field, then if I see that, I got to confront that. If a coach sees it, he’s got to confront it. If a teammate sees, he needs to confront it. And that’s never going to change because if those are the standards and we don’t live up to those standards, then our culture is not strong, and we don’t have a program. And when things start to slide, they slide in inches. They slide in inches right before your eyes, and that’s where all the attention and detail, the little things are big things. Because it’s in the margins right there where you separate really the winners from the losers.

Speaker 5:
You’ve mentioned recruiting a number of times during this podcast. We all know that recruiting is very important in military, in football, but also in the business world. What characteristics do you look for when recruiting an individual, not just a football player, but also your staff?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah, so we really have kind of two, really, grades for guys. And at this level where we’re recruiting, everyone that we’re recruiting, they’re all good players. And so there’s height, weight, speed, change of direction, leaping ability, ball skills, all those are balance and body control, power. Those are things that you can see on tape. Those are things you can see with your eyes. I mean, you can evaluate that, and that’s one score. And, obviously, to compete at the highest level, we’ve got to have guys that are big, fast, and strong and can move and can do all those things. But the other part of it is, which is just as important, is what we call a fit score.

A fit score is like the intangibles, things that you can’t necessarily see on tape, where you have to do some digging. You got to ask. If you ask specific questions, you get a specific answer. What type of leader is he? How does he handle harsh criticism? What is his pain tolerance? How coachable? Is this guy coachable? How does he learn? These are all things you need to know about a guy. Is he a good teammate? And so, if you have a high, basically, athletic score and you have a high fit score, then we’re cooking with gas. I mean, that’s the guy. That’s the guy we want. If you got a high athletic score and a low fit score, you are not for us. You’re just not. And, obviously, if you have a high fit score and low on the measurables, then you’re not for us either because at this level, we need both.

And so, those are the things that we’re looking for in players. And we have to cast a broad net. We recruit coast-to-coast. We’re very aggressive in our offers. And, the again, quick evaluation. You got to find the guys. You got to evaluate them. Then, you got to get the offers out. Then, you got to start recruiting. You got to start marketing, start recruiting, get them on campus, and build the relationships, and then compete for them. Because in recruiting, we’re in competition for players. We’re not recruiting in a vacuum. And competition and recruiting is in large part about comparison. They’re comparing our program to the other 5, 10, 15 programs that they’re seriously considering. And so, that’s the lifeblood of our organization, extremely important.

Speaker 6:
Hey, Coach. I appreciate you taking questions. So, it’s obvious that player engagement’s such a priority for you and your program. I want to shift your attention away from football a little bit and ask you, we’re seeing in the industry that employee engagement is just not happening. How would you recommend that leaders, the supervisor, the manager, the general level manager, what advice would you give them when it comes to engaging with their employees?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. It’s you have to be intentional. You have to first ask yourself, is it important for us to be connected, for us to be connected as employer-employee colleagues? Is that important? If it’s important, then you have to be intentional about how you’re going to do it. You have to put together a plan, and that takes time. There needs to be time invested, not just in the workplace, but sometimes outside the workplace. And again, I see you as a person. If we can establish that with employees and there’s real authentic connection and caring, even though the stakes are high, I mean, and it’s all about, it’s a production business, if you really believe that the connection is important, then you have to invest time. You have to invest time.

And that goes to resiliency, and that’s one of the things that I think that people are… That’s kind of what we’re seeing and what we’re feeling, that maybe our organizations are not as resilient as maybe they once were, what we want them to be. And resiliency is, the way we see it is basically like you have like a wheel with spokes. You have the individual in the middle. And then, the spokes are all the connections that that individual has. And the more real connections that individual has, that individual’s going to be more resilient. They’re going to be able to adapt. They’re going to be able to adjust. They’re going to be ready to overcome adversity. They’re going to be able to, when you get knocked down, get back up, just because of the authentic connections that they have. The more of those that you have, the more resilient the individuals going to be, the more resilient your organization is going to be. And you have to really work at that.

Mike Sarraille:
I think COVID exposed that. If not, it was the highest economy in the history of this country before COVID hit.

Mel Tucker:
Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
And true to the true to the statement, hard times make hard men. So, Coach, I cannot thank you enough. And those were great questions. We do end this on two questions, and this is just, man, you’ve laid so many nuggets that I’ve got two pages of notes here, which I’m totally going to steal your material. So, sorry, not sorry.

Mel Tucker:
It’s all yours.

Mike Sarraille:
I’ll credit you. I’ll credit you. So, two questions are, one is how is Mel Tucker going to evaluate whether he lived a good life, a life of purpose, a life of impact?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. It’s going to be what my two boys, Chris and Joseph, when I’m gone, when people ask them about me, what they say, it’s going to be my legacy because you can’t fool the kids, and they know, and they see you. And that’s really where the rubber meets the road.

Mike Sarraille:
For everyone that just heard that, looking at all you’ve accomplished, that probably sounds insane to them that you could do away with all the accolades. That’s what [inaudible].

Mel Tucker:
Oh, shoot, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’m a glorified PE teacher is what I am.

Mike Sarraille:
Well, a well paid PE teacher. Yeah.

Mel Tucker:
That’s why I’ll let you know, when I look at my dad… I can remember growing up. I’m named after my dad. So, I’m Mel. My dad’s name is Mel. He’s Mel Sr. And people would come up to me and say, “Are you Mel Tucker’s son? Is your dad Mel Tucker that played at Toledo?” And I say, “Yeah.” And then they would say, “Oh, he’s such a great guy. He’s so nice.” And I heard that my entire life. My entire life, I never heard one person say one negative word about my old man. And so, that’s how I see my dad. And he’s just a great man. And he’s my hero growing up. He’s my superhero, and he still is to this day. And so, I know that my kids, even though they get older and they don’t talk to you as much and they got their own [inaudible] going. Yeah, they got that. But I know that they’re watching. And so, it’s important for me, at the end of the day, to at least have earned their respect.

Mike Sarraille:
And you’ve mentioned your dad, and I know your mom’s still alive.

Mel Tucker:
Yep.

Mike Sarraille:
Is Mel Sr. still with us?

Mel Tucker:
Yep. Yep. My mom and my dad are both. They live in Cleveland Heights, and I have two younger brothers. We’re all eight years apart. One of them lives in south in Medina, Ohio, and my other brother’s out in LA, but it feels good to be closer to family.

Mike Sarraille:
Does he still attend a game or two?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah, he’ll get to the game when… He takes care of my mom, but when we can get someone to take care of my mom, he’ll come on up to it. He’ll get to some games, and he loves it. I just ordered him a Peach Bowl ring. He said, “Do you guys get rings?” He said, “I saw you guys got rings.” And I said, “Yeah.” He says, “Well, where’s my ring?” So, he’s kind of living through me a little bit. So yeah, they’re still kicking.

Mike Sarraille:
Both of them have to be two proud parents, man. What are those one to three keys to success, those non-negotiables, for all the viewers and listeners, that have been the key to your success today?

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. Yeah. I would say first and foremost, don’t be scared. I mean, if you’re scared, that’s okay, but you still got to do it. You still got to get out there. You still got to take some risk. You have to take some risk. You have to bet on yourself. You can’t sit back and just wait and hope something falls into your lap. The other thing for me is you got to be a sponge. Pay attention. Success leaves clues. There’s people around you that are successful in whatever they’re doing, whatever it is. There are people that are winning. They’re successful. You come in contact with those people, or you see them, you can read about them. They leave clues.

Mel Tucker:
They’re doing certain things that works, and be a sponge and learn and take some of those things that you know are going to work for you. Or maybe you say, “Hey, I’m not doing that. Maybe I should be doing that.” And start implementing those things, because there’s a reason why they’re winning in life. There’s a reason.

And then, lastly I would say, I mean, there’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned, elbow grease and hard work. I mean, I’m old school that way, and I mean, I believe in rest. I believe in sleep. I believe in recovery. I believe in all. I really do. I mean, I’m at my best when I’m rested, but when I’m going, when you go, go. Work. Work out. You can outwork people, period, and not necessarily work longer, but work smarter. But if you can work longer and smarter, then you’re going to have a chance.

Mike Sarraille:
In a world full of hacks, where everyone’s looking for a shortcut, well, I call it instant gratification.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. Yeah.

Mike Sarraille:
Especially with social media, it’s just sort of reinforced that, both the good and the bad. Mel, I cannot thank you enough for joining us. This is golden, man. And people need to listen to you. Teenagers need to listen to this, sons and daughters. I mean, you just said it, sponge, pay attention. You’ve been highly successful, and you’re leaving clues right now within this podcast. I’m going to tell you this. I’ve probably got more Michigan friends than Michigan State fans, but you have just recruited another fan. And I’m going to be watching this season closely from Austin, Texas, rooting for you and the program and the culture that you’re building.

Mel Tucker:
Yeah. Thank you so much, man. Appreciate having me on, and I enjoy sharing, and I’ve learned a lot from you, as well. And so, I’m just very grateful for the opportunity.

Mike Sarraille:
To all of you, thank you for joining us again, the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior podcast. And we will see you again.Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show and pick up a new issue of Men’s Journal magazine. Men’s Journal magazine has features on health and fitness, adventure and travel, style, and my favorite, the coolest gear hitting the market today. Until next time, I’m Mike Sarraille. And thanks for listening.

 

Episode 15

Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 15: Glenn Cowan
In our fifteenth episode, we spoke to Glenn Cowan, investor, venture capitalist, and former special operations officer.
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Episode 16

Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 16: Retired General Clay Hutmacher
In our sixteenth episode, we spoke with retired General Clay Hutmacher, a United States Army Officer who served for 40 years.
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Episode 17

Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 17: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
In episode seventeen of the Men's Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast, we spoke to 'Game of Thrones' actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
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Episode 18

Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 18: Dr. Kirk Parsley
In episode eighteen, we spoke to Dr. Kirk Parsley, M.D., who specializes in sleep, wellness, and hormonal optimization. 
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Episode 19

Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 19: Michael Gaffney
In episode nineteen, we spoke to Michael Gaffney, retired professional bull rider.
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