An Interview with
Tom Glavine, Mike Vrabel, Justin Tuck & Matt Nagy
American Century Championship (July 9-11, 2021)
June 23, 2021
THE MODERATOR: We’re two weeks away from the 32nd annual American Century Championship. Tom, Matt, Mike and Justin and about 80 other celebrities will welcome fans back to American Century Championship, July 9‑11.
Last year we went forward without fans. It still worked out. We had a great television show. Everyone’s excited to be coming back, bringing the fans back. It won’t be the full complement as we navigate health and safety considerations, but 25,000 or so people will be on the golf course providing that electricity that the event is famous for.
We’ll start with a question for Tom. Tom, how many years have you played the tournament now? And when was the first year that you played? Do you recall?
TOM GLAVINE: I want to say this will be my fifth year. So I did not play last year. So, I don’t know, do the math ‑‑ 2017 or ’16 or somewhere in there. So it’s been fun. First year was a little bit of a train wreck. A little bit nervous to say the least. Subsequent years have been a little bit better. So, trending in the right direction.
Q What’s your advice for Justin Tuck, who is coming out for the first time this year?
TOM GLAVINE: Breathe. Enjoy it. Look, it’s different. We’ve all, I think, had experience playing in front of people a little bit, certainly not to the extent of this tournament when you do it for the first time. So there’s people everywhere. It’s a pretty electric environment.
And I guess I would say, too, make sure you practice those two‑ and three‑foot putts before you get there because they’re hard to make when you have to.
Q Justin, what are your expectations heading into your first time playing up at Edgewood?
JUSTIN TUCK: I think my expectation is to come out and have fun. Hearing what Tom just said as far as this being ‑‑ I’m a rookie here. I’m the new guy. Obviously the latter, what, 15 years of my life I’ve been in front of a TV audience, (indiscernible) playing golf in front of that big of a crowd. Just want to make sure that I don’t whiff on the first tee and go have fun.
I don’t come into this thing thinking I’m going to beat some of these great golfers that I’m going to compete with, but I do expect to come out and just have fun and enjoy it and be able to kind of walk away from hopefully not becoming a meme of me whiffing on one of these shots. So I think that’s what my expectation is. But, again, I’m a competitor. I’m going to try to figure out a way to do it the best I can in this event.
Q Matt and Mike, I was curious, how popular is golf among your players on off days and also during the season and whether or not you encourage it? And for you guys, was golf a respite during the pandemic? And would you encourage or discourage your players to do so, of course, to play golf?
MIKE VRABEL: Well, I would say that here in Nashville, Richland Country Club is close. They did offer a way to get out and after work, when everybody was working from home. Highly encouraged here by the rest of the family to get out and leave the house.
And they did it safely. Everybody had their own cart and nobody touched the pin. I think that was the most important thing to be able to get out and do it safely.
We have some players who play golf. Obviously our punter is an excellent Pro Bowl punter, but those guys have a lot of time on their hands and they’re usually good golfers. Brett Kern is a very good golfer.
And there’s a sprinkling of guys that do play, and I think it’s a great way to get out to do something other than be at practice or be at work but also be with teammates and laugh and try not to take yourself too seriously.
MATT NAGY: I agree totally. (Indiscernible). I think golf’s one of the things we were allowed to get outside and get fresh air be around people from being inside ‑‑ can you hear me?
THE MODERATOR: Matt, you were breaking up. Can you repeat your answer?
MIKE VRABEL: I think what he said was Justin Fields was going to be the starter on opening day. I think that’s what he said.
JUSTIN TUCK: I heard that too.
MIKE VRABEL: Wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy.
Q Justin, you’re getting some advice from the NFL guys here, Nagy and Vrabel along the way. What other advice from NFL guys have you gotten? And something I just thought of when you’re out playing golf with your friends, whatever, what do you normal ‑‑ how do you normally shoot?
JUSTIN TUCK: I’ll answer the first part. I am an 11 ‑‑ I’m trending lower but right now play to about an 11 handicap. Had a pretty good round yesterday. I played Winged Foot yesterday and shot an 84. But it was a lucky 84 ‑‑ made some unbelievable putts that I’m not going to bank on.
And I think the advice I’ve just gotten is, again, like I said earlier, go out and have fun and enjoy it. I live by this creed of I used to get paid to play; now I’m playing to pay this one. So, I’m not going to take myself too seriously. I’m not going to be Brooks Koepka or DeChambeau or John Rahm or any of those guys. I’m just going to go out there and have fun doing this and truly try to relish in the moment.
I think getting the opportunity to be a part of this event is something I’ve always watched. I didn’t play golf up until probably later in my career in the NFL. I always saw guys go out there and hit the ball. It’s always been something I wanted to be a part of. So I’m just going to go out and have fun.
Q Do you think you’ll buy a sportsbook ticket on yourself to win the tournament and either keep it as a souvenir or cash it in when you win?
JUSTIN TUCK: That’s a good question. I hadn’t thought about that. Maybe I’ll buy two just in case I do ‑‑ you know, lightning in a bottle. If I do win it, I can cash one in and keep the other one as a souvenir. I’ll do something to make this a memorable moment.
Q One of the things that the athletes, Super Bowl athletes, World Series pitchers, whatever, say that they’re nervous because of the galleries. Do you think that will get to you more than being on live TV?
JUSTIN TUCK: Oh, absolutely. 100 percent. I mean, me and Coach Vrabel was just discussing this before the recording, playing in the Super Bowl, that’s the stuff we’ve done ‑‑ playing football is something I’ve done since I was a kid. And playing in front of the TV is something I’ve done since college. So I’m pretty used to that.
But, you know, having to hit a nice little cut off the first tee with my driver in front of 25,000 people, I’m not used to that. So, yeah, that part of it will be nerve‑racking. I might just take my putter out on hole one to make sure I can get the ball down the fairway a little bit.
Q After the practice rounds, if you have any hitches or glitches that you want to try to work out, just ask Barkley. He’s been taking lessons and swears he’s going to finish under 70 in the field?
JUSTIN TUCK: Me and Barkley play out of the same golf club down in Alabama. And I’m probably going to have three bets going ‑‑ two on myself and one on him to not come in under 70. But I know his swing looks better. I look forward to seeing how he does as well. That will be fun.
Q Mike, I saw you’re listed at 200‑to‑1 odds. What would you put your odds at?
MIKE VRABEL: I’d say more than that. I think we all go out there for one reason, and that’s the American Century Classic, is to be around the families. That’s the thing I noticed was to be around family and also other great athletes and people that really let their guard down, relax, have a good time, enjoy some unbelievable conditions and unbelievable golf course.
That’s really why I’m going out there. And I’m going to make a couple of birdies and a ton of double bogeys and that’s just how it’s going to be. I’m going to have good times along the way, I know that.
Q As a head football coach, and probably as a coach in general, you can’t have too good of a handicap, can you? People will wonder why you’re not coaching, not spending more time working and too much time playing golf. You kind of told a funny story there before that coaches with a good handicapped maybe get criticized a little bit?
MIKE VRABEL: Yeah, I walked into Ohio State and Urban Meyer was the head coach and he kept me on that second year. And he said Lou Holtz told me I don’t want any coaches with good handicaps; that means they’re not focusing on recruiting and coaching. I always take that to heart.
I think there’s some guys that are great athletes, that are going to play and have some good rounds. But for the most part it’s our time for golf the next couple of weeks before we go to training camp.
Q Justin mentioned playing in front of the gallery. You coach on the sideline in front of 70, 80,000, you’ve played there before. Is it different hitting a golf ball when everybody’s watching you and you have professionals in the group as well?
MIKE VRABEL: Sure. It’s like anything else that we’re not a professional at, that somebody’s coming in there. And you’re going to spray some in the gallery and yell fore a couple of times and watch them dive for cover. But there’s some nerve‑racking things.
Tom Glavine mentioned the two‑ and three‑footers, that’s where you’re normally scraping them. And those aren’t getting scraped out here. That’s the thing that probably is going to be the biggest thing for some of these guys that haven’t done it. Even for us that don’t do it and practice that way. That’s how the game is played, to hole a putt.
Q Does Jen go with you? Does she enjoy seeing the other celebrities too? Is that part of it cool? You’ve been around some pretty high‑profile people in your day. Is it neat for you to see people from all different sports and all different walks of life?
MIKE VRABEL: You know it is. And I think that’s the thing that everybody kind of lets their guard down and enjoys that opening night meeting, where everybody’s kind of getting together and introducing the people that they don’t know and saying hello.
You kind of find out, hey, I loved you as a player, I follow the Titans or whatever it might be. And next thing you know you’re at a blackjack table and you’re sitting next to somebody that you watched on TV or something like that.
So it is fun, it’s a great chance to go meet other families and players around our league that I haven’t had a chance to coach but have admired from afar.
Q Obviously you guys have all had the chance to play across the United States, but had a question whether you guys have had the chance to go over to the home of golf and play in the UK, specifically up in Scotland?
TOM GLAVINE: I have not. I actually had a trip planned last summer with Smoltzy and Maddux that sadly got canceled due to COVID. So I’ve actually got another one planned for October of ’22. So I’m looking forward to that. Have not been over there yet so definitely excited about that.
JUSTIN TUCK: Definitely on my bucket list. I have not had the ability to go over yet. I’ve been invited and, again, had a lot of people talk about doing it as kind of a group. Strahan and I and some others guys have made plans to do it, but we’ve never pulled the trigger. That’s definitely something I want to do in the short term.
MIKE VRABEL: I was fortunate enough to go across to Ireland and play in an international preseason game in 1997 against the Bears when I was with the Steelers. As they were loading the truck up Cowher told Tomczak to tell me to throw my clubs on. They were going to let all the veterans take their clubs if they wanted. Somehow I got in as a rookie, probably because Mike put a good word in for the Ohio State guy.
But we went over, we played probably just two rounds after a training camp practice. We stayed for a week but it was fun. You end up hooking a ball over there and you think you’re out of bounds. Next thing you know, the hole actually went that way. You just stand there and you don’t know which way you’re going.
That’s all I remember from golf over there. I would hit a bad shot and it ended up being a good one because I didn’t know where I was going anyways.
MATT NAGY: I would be just like Justin. That’s a bucket list; I’ve never played over there. I would love to. That’s a hundred percent bucket list for me.
Q Tom, you mentioned Smoltz and Maddux, and obviously with Mulder playing in the tournament, what’s it like playing with some of your former pitching mates in the tournament? Does it make it easier when you’re paired with them? Or how does that work when you’re just out there playing with them other times?
TOM GLAVINE: It’s a little easier. Look, my first time playing in that tournament, obviously there’s nerves. You’re out there. It’s the American Century Championship. And you’ve watched it on TV; you’ve seen it; you’ve wondered what it would be like to play in it and then here you are. And it’s nerve‑racking.
So that first year, playing that first round with those guys, it definitely calmed me down a little bit. Didn’t help my score any. At least it calmed me down a little bit. But it’s fun. I look forward to it because the three of us played so much golf when we were playing ball together. And we don’t get that opportunity much anymore. So this tournament is always one of those opportunities, going to Cooperstown for induction weekend every year is one of those opportunities. So I look forward to it from that standpoint.
And, like I said, it’s just fun being around those guys. We’re forever linked together because of what we did on a baseball field. So being around them is always fun. And it’s usually ‑‑ it’s usually good for a laugh or two with Smoltzy because he’s always got something going on; there’s always something that hurts or something wrong. So you’re trying to figure out how he makes it through the round and somehow end up in the top 10 anyway.
Q Baseball topic, obviously with the baseball, what’s going on and what we witnessed last night with pitchers basically undressing to prove they were not putting pine tar or other substances on the ball, just wanted to get your thoughts and how you feel like you might react to that if you were pitching today?
TOM GLAVINE: It’s a good question. I mean I’ve thought about that, because, you’re right, you’ve seen various reactions. I think you’ve seen some guys that have just come off the mound and been very matter of fact and professional about it, and other guys that clearly were irritated by it.
So I don’t know. I mean, I was never a guy that used any of that stuff. My style of pitching, I didn’t want the ball sticking to my hand. So it would never work for me. I can attest to some of the issues. You pitch in cold weather ‑‑ that baseball feels like a snowball and it’s hard to do anything with it. And sometimes in the middle of summer when it’s really hot and humid, it’s hard to keep your hand dry and the ball can get slick. I understand what guys are struggling with.
I think, for the most part, you’ve got to understand that a lot of this is their own doing. This has been kind of going on for a while. Everybody knew it was going on. And it got to the point where it got to be too much. And Major League Baseball had to do something about it. They only had themselves to blame to some extent.
Now given that, I think there will be guys who are not doing anything that maybe we’ve heard whispers about. To me Scherzer is one of those guys I’ve heard whispers about. He clearly wanted to show that he was not. And he was irritated by it. And I completely understand that reaction.
I would venture to say if it were me, I would just walk off the mound ‑‑ here’s my glove, here’s my hat, here’s my belt. Let me go about my business. Because I’m sure it’s not fun for the umpires either. It’s the kind of thing, why make a bigger deal out of it than you have to?
Q Justin, you’ve announced how celebrations are obviously in order come the fall for the Giants’ tenth anniversary of the second Super Bowl championship. Just sort of wondering your thoughts on that and your emotions around that. And then also a second part, just sort of what in your mind made that specific team so special?
JUSTIN TUCK: As far as celebrations, we have a lot of things planned. I think the Giants have a lot of things planned as far as celebrating that team. But I’ve always been a guy, I really never wanted to like celebrate past things. I want to see my Giants win this Super Bowl and the next Super Bowl. I want to be more focused on that, to be honest with you.
So that’s how I feel about it. But I’ll never take for granted the fact that they’re going to put together a lot of things for us as a team, that Super Bowl XLVI team getting back together, just being able to see all the guys. That’s always going to be special. We got the opportunity to do that four years ago, celebrate Super Bowl XLII as well.
I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be fun, but my message to all Giants fans and the Giants organization is we haven’t done much since then. Let’s get back on that train.
Q In your mind what was special about that team, the one that won it all?
MIKE VRABEL: As I look at two head coaches, two guys who had pretty good careers themselves, I think they’ll attest to anytime you win a Super Bowl it’s all about the team. It’s about the journey. Obviously Tom has won the World Series. That’s what I remember the most I admire the fact that you can find a way to have 50‑odd‑so guys start pulling the rope the right way.
And that season we had a lot of ups and downs. We started out really hot and for whatever reason in the middle of the year we kind of hit a lull. And instead of guys pointing their fingers at each other, we came together and found a way to get the ship righted again and went and beat another huge ‑‑ I mean, a great Patriots team led by, I won’t say arguably anymore, I would say the greatest quarterback of our time.
That’s what I remember most. Just the journey. We had train rides. We had bus rides. We had flights. And those memories as far as the relationships built through that winning season. That’s probably what I’ll remember most.
Q You mentioned the Giants haven’t done a whole lot since. Just wondering what your thoughts are around the capabilities of this year’s team entering the season in the fall?
JUSTIN TUCK: I’m a little behind on that. Obviously COVID kind of changed my visiting the team and normally being around it last year. But, listen, we have ‑‑ hopefully we get Saquon back, and Saquon as we know it back. You’ve got an extra year with Daniel Jones. And I just feel like he’s poised to have a pretty good year as well.
I love what we did on defense. I think our defensive unit is a strong unit, and that’s how, honestly, we’ve always lived with the teams that have been successful with the Giants. If you think about some of the names we have on defense, in our Super Bowl seasons, right?
So, yeah, I’m optimistic, but I also know we’ve got a long way to go. And I think Coach Judge is doing a great job, everything I’ve heard from all the guys on the team, they love playing for the guy. I’m looking forward to having somewhat turnaround season for us this year.
Q Matt, could you give the answer to that first question I had?
MATT NAGY: I was just saying when we went through COVID, I think it was a great opportunity for everybody to get outside regardless of who you were and just kind of get some fresh air and get out of the house.
In regards to our players on our team, we do have a lot of golfers, just like Coach Vrab said. These guys have a little bit more time than us, so they’re able to get out there do their stuff. But we also, as coaches, this is a fun time for us to clear our minds a little bit as well and play some golf. And we’re all a little bit competitive.
I know from talking to Mike from previous years, for both of us ‑‑ I know myself included ‑‑ this is one of my favorite weeks of the year is playing in Tahoe and being fortunate enough to be invited back. And then we compete with the players too. It’s fun just being able to meet new people and all these great athletes and have great conversations and just learn life lessons. And I grew up watching Tom Glavine pitch and be very, very successful.
TOM GLAVINE: Thanks a lot. Appreciate that.
MATT NAGY: And to be able to be there and now see these guys and how good they are in golf, it’s fun. So this is kind of our golf season now and it’s just ‑‑ we have a lot of enjoyment, which I think ‑‑ very competitive.
MIKE VRABEL: Tom, I grew up taking my kids to the Columbus destroyer’s game and the starting quarterback was Matt Nagy so I was a season ticket member.
Q Tom, following up on the question about John Smoltz, can you actually see him win this event? I know he’s been very competitive more recently but I think the competition, as you’ve spoken about today, is probably better than it’s ever been?
TOM GLAVINE: Look, I would never count Smoltzy out of anything. He’s a guy that ‑‑ there isn’t much that he doesn’t think he can do, which I guess serves him well most of the time. Sometimes it gets him in trouble. But there isn’t much that he doesn’t think he’s capable of doing.
But you’re right, there’s some really good players in this tournament and guys that can really hit the ball a long way and hit it close to the pin when they do and all that stuff. It makes it tough on the rest of us.
But if John’s healthy and he’s feeling good, I think he’s got a chance. I know he played in the senior tournament a couple weeks ago and did not play very well. And I talked to him after that and he said his game wasn’t very good. But if I know him, he’s spending every extra minute he has now, between now and the tournament, working on things. So he’ll be ready to go.
THE MODERATOR: The favorite is Tony Romo at 3‑2. Mardy Fish, the defending champion, he’s 2‑1 in the William Hill sports book. Smoltz is 8‑1. And Annika Sorenstam is in the field at 8‑1. And Mark Mulder is the other top‑tier favorite 4‑1.
Q I wanted to know about offseason additions for your division. There’s new quarterbacks, there’s obviously Julio there. Can you talk about what you think about Julio’s attitude first of all since he’s arrived there with the team and his motivation level? And just overall some of the additions for that division?
MIKE VRABEL: I won’t touch on his motivation level because I think that’s something that Julio will do a better job of explaining. I will talk on his attitude though. It’s been phenomenal since we first began conversations with him and with the Falcons and with Arthur and Terry Fontenot down there as we started to work things out, it’s been fantastic.
We told him what our expectations were. I explained what those were. Since he’s been here, he’s communicated, which I think is one of the biggest things I’ve learned about trying to create a culture on a football team or what the expectations are, it’s about being able to communicate and share what your plans are, what your feelings are and how you want to go about doing things. And I have to be able to communicate and express that and make a decision for the football team.
So Julio has been coming in, he’s been a part of our football team since we’ve traded for him. He came to the voluntary stuff the last few days, was at the mini camp. I would anticipate him picking back up and being ready to go when we start training camp.
Q Can you just talk about the dynamic of your offense now? I mean, I know it’s hard to say because it’s just on paper right now but can you talk about what that brings having a guy like Derrick back there having the receiving threat you already do, how does it change this team?
MIKE VRABEL: I think you can assemble talent and our job is to go out and improve and work and we’ve explained as Justin and Matt know and Tom knows, that it’s not about how the training camp or spring training went, it’s can you withstand the long haul and ups and downs and the grinding football season.
I think we have pieces that were confident in proven pieces in this league, but the great thing about athletics, professional athletics, you have to go out there, prove it between the lines. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a first round pick or free agent doesn’t matter what they pay you. It’s you have to go out there and prove it, it’s what we’re excited to be able to do, to do in July, start that process.
Q Justin, the tenth anniversary of that Super Bowl is this season for the Giants. What can you tell us or can you tell us anything that no one was talking about then?
JUSTIN TUCK: I don’t know. I think the thing that comes to mind as far as might be a surprise to people is just how excited we were to play the Patriots again, to be honest with you. I think when you think about what happened in XLII, we had a lot of people going to that game saying XLII was a fluke and the Patriots is going to [inaudible] so forth.
That was our calling card that we didn’t necessarily say to the media, say to anybody outside of our huddle, how excited we were to, one, because obviously we had a game plan, how to beat the Patriots, which honestly is not too different, I think, if you ask either the coaches on this Zoom right now, they’ll tell you we’ve got a guy that’s like a Tom Brady in any case, you always want to take the head off the snake. We have a team that was built for doing that.
So I think the thing most people didn’t realize how excited we were to play that team again, because, one, we had an opportunity to prove that the XLII Super Bowl wasn’t a fluke, and we also had an opportunity to play a team we’re familiar with. Obviously, Coach Coughlin, his familiarity with Coach Belichick, they grew up in the ranks together and all those things. Those are little things that made us a little bit more comfortable going into that Super Bowl.
But we also knew that Tom and crew wanted their revenge as well. So I think that’s something that I didn’t see a lot of people talking about that was probably talked about pretty often in the group of our team and was added motivation for us.
Q Justin, this is your first time playing at the American Century. And I’m wondering if the elevation, if you foresee the elevation to be any type of an issue for you, number one? And number two, American Century golf tournament is not known for being quiet. Do you think that is going to affect your game or do you think it’s going to power up your game?
JUSTIN TUCK: It’s funny you asked that question because I think I play golf better when there’s chatter in my backswing. I was a defensive guy. I love loud crowds. I think quiet in golf course makes me think too much. When I’m playing normally by myself or in foursomes on a quiet golf course, I’m thinking about the golf shape, this hole’s desires or needs, instead of just focusing on hitting the ball straight or hitting the ball somewhere where I can get a second shot. I’m actually looking forward to the crowds. I think that bodes well for my game.
And the elevation, listen, I’m a pretty big individual. I hit a long ball. But my driver’s probably my weakest point. If I can take something less off the tee and still be able to get it out there to have a decent second shot, then I think that helps me as well. So you might see me take less than driver off a lot of tees in this American Century Championship.