It's been long talked-about how passionate quarterback Jameis Winston is. It's apparent from his pregame speeches, from the way that he plays on the field and from the way he radiates during his press conferences. But Winston isn't ready to take the title as the most passionate player on the Buccaneers' roster. That player, he believes, is wide receiver Russell Shepard.
WATCH: BUCS VS. 49ERS HIGHLIGHTS
Shepard, the Bucs' special teams captain in each of the past two seasons, broke out against the 49ers, catching five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
"He's probably our best all-around player on this team as far as the passion that he comes with every day to work, as far as the leadership that he gives us and just his heart," Winston said. "His overall heart is tremendous. This was another big win for him because their head coach cut him, and that's personal to him. We did everything in our power to help him."
Shepard was thrust into the lineup after fellow receiver Vincent Jackson was placed on injured reserve. Given the opportunity, he caught as many passes against San Francisco as he had in his first three seasons in the NFL. Shepard gave a pregame speech before facing the 49ers, who are led by Chip Kelly – a coach who cut Shepard early in his career.
The speech wasn't anything out of the ordinary, though.
"Shep gives a pregame speech in the locker room before every game. So, we just rallied behind him and went out there and played some good football."
This was Shepard's second career touchdown. His first came against Kelly when he was with the Eagles. With Jackson sidelined for the rest of the season and the Buccaneers seeking a complementary receiver to line up alongside Mike Evans, Shepard is emerging as the lead candidate.
"I don't want to let my teammates down," Shepard said. "I don't want to let myself down. I work extremely hard to be able to take advantage of these opportunities. It's just a testimony of hard work and just my teammates doing an amazing job and giving me opportunities."