Sean Tucker weaved through memes and tweets en route to a record-breaking season
Sean Tucker broke the internet while he broke records in 2021
Reporters gather in Syracuse University’s football complex, huddled at one end of the hallway near Ernie Davis’ 1961 Heisman Trophy. The locker room doors swing open, and Sean Tucker walks out.
Tucker only says what he needs to. He sidesteps iPhone microphones and stiff-arms TV cameras by thanking his offensive line and speaking in short, concise, one-sentence answers for about five minutes.
Last weekend against NC State, Tucker shattered the Syracuse University 1,372 yard single-season rushing record that Joe Morris set in 1979. As of now, his 1,467 rushing yards rank third among running backs in all of college football.
And though there are similarities between he and the great Orange running backs who carved the Dome’s turf before him, Tucker is different. He speaks to the world of college football through the blue glow of his phone, typing his game stats on Twitter as he does faithfully after every game he plays.
Another ACC win Syracuse 21 BC 6. I'm pleased with my performance and with the outcome of the game. I had 26 Att for 207 Yds and a TD. With a much needed bye week and 3 games left, I plan to finish strong! pic.twitter.com/vn6RdJkPV6
— Sean Tucker (@seantucker2020) November 1, 2021
In some tweets, he says he’s just getting started. Last week’s edition dropped 24 hours after Tucker racked up 105 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Wolfpack. It’s a postgame habit that Steve Tucker, Sean’s father, said began when his son was a sophomore at Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, Maryland. The two-sport athlete tweeted little snips about how he performed to update family and friends who couldn’t make it to his football games and track meets, for which he ran a variety of short-distance sprinting events. Steve supplied video highlights, in which he often shot from the best spots in the stands, and Sean gave them the facts.
“It’s just been a simple place for people who like to follow Sean to follow what happened.” Steve Tucker said. “He didn’t have that same type of coverage that you have in college.”
We lost Saturday, NC St 41 Syr 17. I'm pleased with my performance but not happy with the outcome. With just 13 Att for 105 Yds and TD there was so much more I could have done. One more game one more win. Cuse fans let's pack the house this Saturday! I'm still in the fight.. pic.twitter.com/fYTNkx1fbE
— Sean Tucker (@seantucker2020) November 22, 2021
Steve doesn’t film Sean’s games anymore; ESPN handles that. Those tuning in have watched the first player in Syracuse history rush for more than 100 yards in nine games in one season: a feat unmatched by the likes of Syracuse backfield legends such as Jim Brown, Floyd Little and Davis.
Like Tucker’s 12 rushing touchdowns this season, each tweet appears the same on paper but is different in its own way. His stat-line shares a page with a photo of him carrying the ball from that game and his assessment of how he thinks he played.
“Sometimes it’s not good. Sometimes he could’ve done something better, or he left too many yards on the field and it’s a moment of, just keep it real,” Steve Tucker said. “If you did good, you did good. And say you did good. If you didn’t do good or, you tried your best, but you still weren’t happy with it, then say it. That’s how it’s kind of always been, and I guess some people like that or respect that.”
Somewhere within each self-evaluation, Tucker confirms whether he is “pleased” or “not pleased” with his performance. The word has become a rallying cry for Orange fans. His teammates and Syracuse’s official football social media accounts now use the phrase in their posts.
It’s the best running back in college football’s birthday.
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) October 25, 2021
“I just came up with it honestly, back when I first started doing it,” Tucker said. “I like to keep it the same.”
The comment section under each tweet is often playfully chaotic. Many users tell Sean they too, are pleased with his performance. Some photoshop his face on the Heisman Trophy, Superman, or onto other meme templates. Others affirm their allegiance to different schools but pay respect to the boy who tweets.
“It’s pretty funny,” Tucker said. “The guys in the locker room get a good laugh out of it.”
Tucker said he tries to send the tweet early the morning after he plays. He doesn’t feel pressure to tweet about his performance, though fans, and even some teammates, eagerly refresh their feeds on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. Josh Black, a sixth-year defensive lineman, said he’s occasionally guilty of asking Tucker for his famous post.
“When I’m not at football, I’m on Twitter the entire day looking at Sean Tucker memes. That’s how I relax,” Black said. “(Sean) is like a silent assassin. He does his work on the field. He doesn’t really talk about his performance outside of Twitter. If you come up to him and ask him in the locker room how he did, he’s like, ‘eh, I could’ve done better.'”
Black tweets his fair share of Tucker memes, too. He and offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron, who once compared watching Tucker run to the beauty and smoothness of a painting, join in the fun when he can.
— Joshua Black (@jnblack85) November 1, 2021
— Matthew Bergeron (@MatthewkBerger1) November 1, 2021
The Orange (5-6) will host No. 18 Pittsburgh at the Dome on Saturday. A win would clinch Syracuse’s first bowl berth since the team’s 2018 Camping Bowl victory over West Virginia. That trophy sits behind a pane of glass in Syracuse’s football complex, too, just a few steps from Davis’ historic hardware.
When Tucker’s done answering questions, he thanks everyone for their time. He turns but does not stop to check his reflection in the Heisman’s glass enclosure. When the doors close behind him, they stay closed. The silent assassin gets back to work. He says he’s just getting started.