OAKLAND (CBS) On the field, he crunches quarterbacks. But on his days off, Justin Tuck pushes the power of reading to middle school students.
“How many of you guys have dreams to be something great in life?” he asked at a recent assembly at Alliance Academy in Oakland. At 6’5″, 270, the Raiders defensive end tends to command kids’ attention.
“I grew up in Alabama, we didn’t have programs like this,” he recalled.
Tuck was born and raised in Kellyton, Alabama, population about 200. But after graduating from Notre Dame, he was drafted by the New York Giants. During those first years in the NFL, Tuck and his wife Lauran, also a Notre Dame grad, launched “Tuck’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy” with “RUSH” standing for read, understand, succeed, and hope.
“For us, we thought the number one stumbling block to a great education is literacy,” Lauran Tuck explained. “Up until third grade, you learn to read. From then on, you read to learn.”
Now in its ninth year, Tuck’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy provides free books to middle school students, already distributing 14,000 to kids and placing another 86,000 in schools. The non-profit has also given more than $600,000 in grants, including $250,000 to the Super Bowl 50 Fund’s early literacy initiative called the “REaD Zone.”
When they started Tuck’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy, the couple didn’t have children. Now they have two sons, including a five-year-old who is apparently getting the literacy message:
“His tooth fairy money, he took and bought a book,” Justin Tuck said. “That’s just something we try to embed in him and hopefully he understands that his education will play a key role in what type of man and what type of life he has going forward.”
It’s also working for eighth grader Brando Borbolla, who won last year’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy essay contest.
“Anything that has a series I love, because it keeps going and going and going,” Borbolla said enthusiastically. “It’s mysterious!”
Borbolla hopes to repeat as essay champ this year.
“It’s not about the prize,” he said. “I like to make my family happy ’cause my parents sacrificed a lot for me so that’s what I like to win things for them, or make them happy.”
So for inspiring middle school students in Oakland to read, understand, succeed, and hope, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Lauran and Justin Tuck.