The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have chosen their 2019 team captains through a player vote conducted on Tuesday, with the following six men chosen to wear the "C" on their jerseys: Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and Ali Marpet on offense; Lavonte David and Carl Nassib on defense; and Dare Ogunbowale on special teams.
David is the Buccaneers' longest-running captain, as this is the sixth straight year the highly-respected defender has been voted in by his teammates. Evans and Winston are both captains for a third time with the Buccaneers, though Winston's run is non-consecutive. He was not a captain in 2018 but had been chosen for that role in 2016 and 2017, his second and third seasons in the NFL.
"I'm just humbled that the guys would choose us to be their leaders," said Winston. "Having that 'C' on your chest definitely means a lot, so it's my duty to serve my teammates as best I possibly can."
As Winston pointed out on Wednesday, every season brings a new team, with players – and in this case – coaches arriving and departing. It generally doesn't take long for David's newer teammates to discover that he is one of the team's most effective leaders. This year, David was selected again even though a knee injury kept him out of all four preseason games.
"It's an honor," he said. "We've got a whole new staff, a lot of different teammates, so it shows – even being out – the work I put in. I've got the respect of my peers and I respect them for voting me captain."
It likely did not surprise Evans to be chosen for a third consecutive year either as he continues to play such an important role for the team, but it was still meaningful for him to get the "C" again.
"It means a lot, that my teammates and my peers have that type of respect for me," he said. "And I respect them the exact same way. I really appreciate it and I don't take it lightly."
Almost by definition, quarterbacks are going to be vocal, demonstrative leaders. Evans' form of leadership comes more in the relationships he builds with all of his teammates.
"Obviously, I make plays and I've been here for a long time," he said. "I just try to be cool with all my teammates, not just guys on offense, not just guys that I know, that have been here. I try to be cool with everybody, even guys that might not make the team."
Marpet is a captain for the second year in a row, having first been chosen in his fourth NFL campaign. Both Nassib and Ogunbowale are Buccaneer team captains for the first time. Ogunbowale has obvious leadership traits – he was also chosen as a team captain as a senior at the University of Wisconsin – but his selection this year is an indication of how far he's come after battling for several seasons and with three different teams to make an opening-day roster.
"It's an honor to have my teammates vote for me," he said. "That they see me as a leader, see me as a guy they trust means a lot. These were always goals, goals I had – goals to make the team, goals to be a leader, goals to make plays. I'd just say it's an honor and it's hard to put into words how it feels, how things are turning out."
Ogunbowale is another leader by example. He plays multiple roles in the kick and return game and will be on the field for virtually all of the Buccaneers' special teams snaps.
"I don't talk too much," he said. "Guys kind of know my story and they know how hard I've worked to get where I'm at, to be able to play in the first place. Guys kind of gravitate to that. I don't know – I just try to be there for guys. I don't really see it as being a leader; I'm just there to support plays and then obviously make plays and be trustworthy when that time comes."
Each NFL team is allowed to choose up to six captains on game day, so the Buccaneers went with the full allotment after choosing just five captains a year ago. The offense got one more than the defense, but he two leaders for that latter group should have a complementary style, with the quieter David motivating his peers through actions and the occasional side chat and Nassib constantly firing up his teammates on the field.
"My style is just going out there and playing as hard as I can, trying to motivate guys as much as I can," said David. "The guys know I'm not a rah-rah guy, but when the time comes to pull a guy to the side, talk to them about what they're doing wrong or what they're doing right, and motivate them as well, encourage them, that's the type of leader I try to be."
Like Ogunbowale, Nassib has made a significant impression on his teammates in a short amount of time. He arrived just a year ago, after training camp, as a waiver claim from Cleveland. Nassib ended up playing a very big role on defense and now he's clearly a leader as the players adapt to a new system under Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles.
"He's just a great teammate, one of the best teammates you can ask for, and guys really look up to him," said Winston of Nassib. "He definitely stepped up in training camp and has been doing some great things, and has been a great leader by example and vocally for us this training camp."
Nassib is simply doing what comes natural to him.
"I just go out there and try to have fun and be the best player I can be," he said.