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My Draft Experience: Justin Tuck

A sack artist at Notre Dame, Justin Tuck watched as six DEs were taken ahead of him in the '05 draft. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The wait was much longer than expected, and the feeling of disappointment still lingers with him today.

Justin Tuck was projected to go by most in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft. However, the pass-rusher nicknamed "The Freak" by his Notre Dame teammates dropped to the third round and had to wait hours before the New York Giants finally called his name.

"Disappointment," Tuck recalled. "I should've went first [round]. A little complication with my knee [and] everybody red-flagged [me]."

Tuck suffered a knee injury at the end of his breakout 2003 season and saw his production dip from 13.5 sacks to six sacks in 2004 at Notre Dame. So even though he was one of the premier pass-rushers in the country, Tuck was the seventh defensive end chosen in the '05 draft.

He was drafted after Erasmus James, Marcus Spears, Luis Castillo, Matt Roth, Dan Cody and Jonathan Babineaux all had their names called.

James (18th overall), Spears (20th) and Castillo (28th) all went in the first round.

"I got mad," Tuck remembered. "I got disappointed just seeing some of the names that got called before me. That kind of fueled me a little bit to work harder to make sure I did whatever it is going to take to make teams look back and say, 'Man, we probably shouldn't have made that pick.'"

Anger turned to motivation. And motivation eventually helped lead Tuck into becoming a two-time champion who would get the best of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Even though Tuck didn't go in the first round, he landed in the perfect spot. But it might not have appeared that way at first since the Giants were already stacked at defensive end with Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.

But everything has worked out better than Tuck could have imagined when the Giants called before taking him with the 74th overall pick in the draft.

"Relief," Tuck thought when the Giants called. "I obviously knew how great of a situation it would be to come to New York and play with the likes of Osi and Strahan.

"I had some conversations with [then-Giants defensive line coach] Mike Waufle at the time," Tuck continued. "And I knew the reputation of Coach [Tom] Coughlin. And I respected that. I knew he was going to get the best out of me and I was excited about it."

Eight years and two Super Bowl rings later, Tuck is entering the final year of his contract with the Giants, who might draft another pass-rusher in the upcoming draft.

The Giants need a vintage Tuck season from their defensive captain, with Umenyiora gone to Atlanta and the defense looking to redeem itself after finishing 31st last year in total defense.

Tuck is motivated to bounce back after battling injuries and totaling just nine sacks over the past two seasons following an 11.5-sack 2010. General manager Jerry Reese had a long, productive meeting with Tuck earlier in the offseason to discuss his play.

"We both want the same things," Tuck said. "It wasn't like he had to tell me that. I came out of the meeting refreshed."

In fact, when you hear Tuck talk about how focused he is on returning to his level of dominant play, it sounds a bit like how Tuck felt after being passed over in the first couple of rounds in 2005.

"That's what it's going to be for me, getting back to the Pro Bowl-, All-Pro-type status that I'm accustomed to playing at," Tuck said earlier this offseason.

Tuck turned 30 in March and says has plenty more football left in him.

But he did allow himself to briefly examine how his career has gone since all the disappointment he felt on draft day.

"It has completely worked out for me," Tuck said. "I have no regrets. I just kind of laugh at all the teams that passed me up."

"[But] yeah, it was a long wait," he added.