Well, it's a start. Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David kicked off a three-part unveiling special on Sunday on NFL Network when he was named to the NFL's Top 100 list, coming in at number 100.
The list is voted on each year by players and coaches around the league. It is David's first appearance since 2016, when he ranked No. 53, and his fourth appearance overall. He made the list three years in a row, from 2014-2016, ranking as high as 35.
His triumphant return comes after David proved yet again why he is one of the best athletes at his position in 2019. He finished with the team-lead in tackles with 122, as well as solo tackles with 78. Since he entered the league in 2012, David has the second-most combined tackles of any player, surpassing 1,000 combined this past season to land at 1,006, and has the most solo tackles of any player in that span with 717. He added 10 tackles for loss in 2019 to bring his career total to 116, which ranks third since 2012 behind only Houston's J.J. Watt and Los Angeles' Aaron Donald.
Among linebackers, David has been consistent in his plays on the ball, too. He forced three fumbles last season, bringing his career total to 14, which is the most in the league of any player since 2012. It also puts him ahead of Rondé Barber for the most by any Bucs player in his career. Considering Barber's career spanned 16 seasons with the Bucs, that's quite the feat on David's part. His 21 career forced fumbles rank fifth since 2012. In coverage, and in that span, he also has the third-most interceptions with 11, after adding one in 2019. Additionally, David has broken up 45 passes in his career, which is good for the fifth-most passes defensed of anyone at his position since he came into the league.
He's the only player in the league (since at least 1999) to record at least 140 tackles, at least 20 tackles for loss, at least five sacks and at least five interceptions in one season. That was back in 2013, when David received his first – and only – All-Pro nod. David is also the only other player besides Ray Lewis to record 1,000 tackles, 20 sacks and 10 INTs through their first 8 seasons since sacks became an official stat in 1982.
Yet, David is a guy that rarely gets any notoriety. It could be that David's high level of play is just expected at this point, making him a victim of his own consistency. For what's also remained a constant is his lack of recognition. On a national scale, it seems to allude him. But that could be changing along with the Bucs' rise in profile. After the team's signing of quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, they ended up with a schedule that puts them in the primetime spotlight more than ever before, playing the maximum-allotted five primetime games in 2020. While fans will undoubtedly be watching Brady and Gronk, they may also notice players that have been there all along. Like David, who's appearance on this year's NFL Top 100 is finally a step in the right direction.
After all, the league is comprised of nearly 1,700 players. Being named to the top 100 puts you within the top six percent of the top players in the world. Plus, the voting comes from your peers. It has to mean a little bit more knowing that the list isn't just a popularity contest and that you've earned the respect of the guys around you.
David won't be the only Buccaneer representative in the list either and it's only up from here. There will be four more players revealed as the unveiling special continues both Monday and Tuesday nights beginning at 8 p.m. on NFL Network.