For the past five years, NFL star defensive end Justin Tuck has pulled back the best pool table covers, brushed off the felt, chalked up the cues and invited his professional athlete buddies and Hollywood celebrity friends to shoot pool for charity. Tuck’s Celebrity Billiards Tournament not only draws big names to the table, but it also earns big bucks for his charity R.U.S.H. for Literacy.
Racking Up Charity Dollars
Justin Tuck grew up in a tiny Alabama town in which he was related to nearly three-quarters of the population. According to his bio, the city is officially named Kellyton, but a more common reference is “Tuckville” because of his family’s presence in the area.
After attending Notre Dame University, Tuck was drafted by the New York Giants, where he played for nine years and won two Super Bowl titles before heading to the Oakland Raiders for the upcoming 2014 season.
On the field, Tuck is a menacing force as he rushes the passer. Off the field, the gridiron giant, along with his wife Lauran, works toward improving literacy.
In 2008, the couple established R.U.S.H. for Literacy, which stands for Read, Understand, Succeed and Hope. Its mission is to further educate and empower underserved children primarily in his native Alabama as well as adopted states of New York and New Jersey (where the Giants play), and now his new home state of California. Throughout the years, R.U.S.H. has donated more than 65,000 books to 11,000 students and established summer reading programs so kids don’t let that critical skill lapse. It has also awarded more than $320,000 in grants.
The Celebrity Billiards Tournament is both a way to draw attention to the charity’s programs and raise funds — the 2013 event finished with more than $460,000 — but it’s also a lot of fun.
Anthony Anderson, known for his role in Law & Order as well as appearances on other shows, emceed the event. Music was provided by DJ Mad Lynx. Tuck was joined by many of his NY Giants teammates, including Victor Cruz and Eli Manning, as well as athletes from the NY Red Bulls soccer team and several celebs, such as Vivica Fox, Melissa Joan Hart, and Dolvett Quince, one of the trainer’s from The Biggest Loser.
One of the highlights of the evening was watching professional pool player Jeanette “the Black Widow” Lee demonstrate trick shots.
Although Tuck’s move to Oakland may cause a change of venue for his celebrity pool tournament, the charity continues to move forward. In 2013, it added the CAS College Savers program, which provides low-income children with college savings accounts accompanied by financial educational initiatives to raise their financial literacy. Research shows that if a child has savings specifically set aside for a college education, that student is seven times more likely to attend college.
And education is what young Justin Tuck wanted for himself while growing up in Alabama, and to which he attributes his continued success both on and off the football field.