When Tucker Day was a youngster, he told his dad he wanted to play at the Titans’ stadium someday.
The former Brentwood punter will finally get his chance when Mississippi State faces Louisville in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium on Monday.
“My dad said at one point I looked at him when we were at a Titans game,” Day said. “I think they were playing the Steelers and it was snowing. Really cold and Chris Johnson was the running back and the Titans ended up winning.”
Then the future Mississippi State punter told his dad his dream.
“Apparently, I told my dad -- and I was only 10 or something – he said I looked with just big eyes and I said. ‘I want this,’ ” Day said. “Apparently, I did and now I’m chasing it.”
Day’s entire family and many of his high school friends will be at the game.
The redshirt sophomore is in his second full year with the Bulldogs (6-6), averaging 42.6 yards per punt, including 12 that landed inside the 20-yard line.
“Tucker has improved from last year to this year,” Bulldogs coach Joe Moorhead said. “There are just some things maybe directionally with his kicking that we’ve got to improve a little bit, but his distance, his hang time, his get off are all much improved this season.”
Day was named to ESPN’s All-Bowl team last year after averaging 50.4 yards on five punts in a 27-22 loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
He boomed a career-long 70-yard punt in the third quarter of that game.
“We only had 10 guys on the field at the time and I was the only player that noticed it,” Day said. “I was screaming at the snapper, ‘snap me the ball before they find out.’ I just caught it and put everything I had into it to try to clear the returner.”
Day said it sounded like a gun shot when his foot hit the football.
The ball hit the Iowa 4-yard line before bouncing out of the end zone, getting the shorthand coverage team off the hook.
Day began his college career as a placekicker in 2017 when he received a medical redshirt after suffering a hip injury in practice before the third game. He has punted the last two seasons.
His most memorable game at Brentwood came when he kicked a 35-yard field goal as time expired to give the underdog Bruins a 24-21 win over Centennial in a Class 5A quarterfinal during his senior year in 2016.
“He had a rocket-shot punt that flipped the entire field (in the fourth quarter),” Bruins coach Ron Crawford said. “Their kid backs up and I think it just shocked him where he was on the field, and he muffed it. We get on it and we scored (a touchdown) a couple plays later.”
Day missed a 55-yard field goal attempt just over one minute before his winning field goal.
“It was unbelievable,” Crawford said. “It hit the upright up high and the goal post literally shook forever. It was a crazy deal to even ask him to do it. He hammered it.”
Day hit 3 of 4 field goals as Brentwood ended Centennial’s 10-game winning streak.
“We had just barely gotten into the playoffs and everybody said that we were going to get whomped by them,” Day said. “We started the game with an onside kick and we got it back. It was really a special teams battle.”
Middle linebacker C.J. Grissim’s interception with about 30 seconds left set up Day’s winning field goal.
“Everybody rushed the field,” Day said. “That was the best memory I ever had as a Brentwood player.”
He was the nation’s top-ranked punter by Chris Sailer Kicking during senior year.
Colorado State, Illinois, Rutgers, San Diego State, Army, Navy and Florida also showed interest in him before he chose Mississippi State.
“In my 35 years, Tucker is the only guy (kicker) that I’ve had that got an SEC scholarship,” Crawford said. “Tucker is probably the best (kicker) that I’ve ever had as far as leg strength, accuracy, toughness, dependability.”
He became the first Brentwood player to make the Army All-American Bowl in 2017.
Day will need a good showing against Louisville (7-5), which ranks third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in punt returns (12.5 ypr).
“The perfect punt is one that sits up in the air for about 4.6 seconds to 5.2 seconds,” Day said. “If you hit a ball 50 yards, you need it to be at least a 4.8 hang time.”
Day didn’t start playing football until his freshman year at Brentwood.
“I was a hockey player and a soccer player,” Day said. “I grew up watching the Predators and the New York Rangers. My dad was a hockey player up in the Northeast and I wasn’t really raised to watch football because my parents were actors.”
Day said a Brentwood football coach asked who had the strongest leg on his middle school soccer team.
“The coach came walking up to me and said you’re going to kick for the team,” Day said. “I said, ‘Football?’ He said, ‘Yea, you’re gonna kick.’ ”
Initially, Day didn’t think he was very good, but he gradually improved enough to make it all the way to the Southeastern Conference and a bowl game at Nissan Stadium.
“Now, here I am,” Day said.
Two other Williamson County players are on the Bulldogs’ roster:
Landon Guidry, safety, redshirt sophomore, Independence, 6-0, 195: He has made four tackles and is listed second on the depth chart at strong safety. Played in eight games last year, primarily on special teams. Suffered season-ending ACL injury in 2017 scrimmage as freshman. Helped lead Independence to Class 5A title as junior in 2015 and runner-up finish in 2016.
Tristan Pisacane, wide receiver, junior, Centennial 5-9, 180: He’s a walk-on for the Bulldogs.