At 26, FB B.J. Askew is just hitting his prime as a fullback and special teams standout
In the NFL, the quarterback will have his hands on the football on every play; the fullback, in many offenses, on almost none of them. Yet both players can be vitally important to a team's attack.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers addressed both positions during a busy opening weekend to the NFL's 2007 free agency period. On Sunday, the team announced the signing of former New York Jets fullback B.J. Askew, an unrestricted free agent. That follows on the heels of Saturday's high-profile acquisitions of quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Jake Plummer.
Askew is the third unrestricted free agent from another team to sign up with the Buccaneers in the opening days of free agency. In addition to Garcia, the Bucs also signed former Denver DE/LB Patrick Chukwurah on Saturday. Tampa Bay's frenetic front-office work over the weekend has also included the re-signing of fullback Mike Alstott, the trade for quarterback Jake Plummer and the signings of two Buccaneers who briefly became free agents, cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Torrie Cox.
The 6-3, 233-pound Askew is a versatile back who did get his hands on the ball quite extensively at Michigan before the Jets drafted him in the third round in 2003. In New York, he developed into a promising lead blocker and a very good special teams player.
Over his four seasons with the New York Jets, Askew carried the ball just 27 times for 102 yards and caught just 12 passes for 73 yards. In his first two NFL seasons, however, Askew helped Curtis Martin rush for 1,308 and 1,697 rushing yards, respectively. He also contributed 68 kick-coverage tackles during that span, the fourth-highest career total in Jets history. In 2004, Askew racked up a remarkable 31 stops on special teams.
Last year, Askew aided a Jets ground attack that averaged 108.6 yards per game and scored 15 touchdowns. He was limited by a foot injury for much of the season, ceding some time to fullback James Hodgins, but he impressed the Jets with his toughness by coming back for the last three regular-season games and the playoffs and contributing significantly. Askew may have taken his toughness to a legendary level during a December game in Green Bay when he came out for warmups without a shirt on despite freezing temperatures.
The 26-year-old back is just entering his prime and could help a Buccaneer rushing attack that slipped to 28th in the league in 2006. He is also a good receiver out of the backfield, another skill he displayed at Michigan.
In 48 games for the Wolverines, Askew carried the ball 343 times for 1,580 yards and 17 touchdowns while also catching 83 passes for 777 yards and six more scores. He was named the team's MVP as a senior, and his 902 rushing yards paced the Michigan ground attack in his junior campaign. The Jets used the 85th overall pick in the 2003 draft to nab Askew, 11 spots before the Bucs landed quarterback Chris Simms.
Askew hails from Cincinnati.