New Buccaneer WR Michael Clayton was introduced to the Bay area on Monday morning at Raymond James Financial
"First and foremost, I love the game of football and I hate to lose."
Does that sound like anyone you know?
Those words were uttered at a Tampa Bay Buccaneer press conference on Monday morning, and while they might sound exactly like a sentiment you would get from Head Coach Jon Gruden, they are actually attributable to Michael Clayton.
Clayton, former LSU wide receiver and now, thanks to the 15th pick in the 2004 draft, the Bucs' newest offensive weapon, was speaking to an assemblage of the Bay area media for the first time when he declared his love for the game. Gruden was, in fact, just a few feet away, smiling to himself several times during Clayton's press conference, held at Raymond James Financial. No doubt Clayton's willingness to give his all to avoid defeat played into Gruden's desire to make the receiver a Buccaneer.
Gruden believes Clayton can be special, and so Monday's introduction was also a celebration of the great things that hopefully are to come.
"I look forward to joining forces with great players," said Gruden. "The relationships that have worked for me in the past with great football players, they understand that the coaching staff is going to work tirelessly for them and they're going to work tirelessly for us. That allows the player to max out to the greatest of his abilities."
Clayton spent a portion of the winter and spring in Bradenton, working out in a program designed to prepare NFL hopefuls for February's combine. However, the only time he had any contact with the nearby Buccaneers before hearing his name called on Saturday was at that combine in Indianapolis. The mature-beyond-his-years 21-year-old was one of the players the team called in for a sit-down meeting in Indianapolis, and he reportedly nailed it.
The Bucs came away convinced that Clayton was deep in both character and football character.
"From the past what I base myself on is being who I can be, giving 100 percent effort," said Clayton. "Some talent is better than others, but you don't have to be somebody special to give 100 percent. Anything that I can do, whether it be playing on special teams or whatever it takes, that's what I'm going to do, because that's the kind of player I am. That's what I'm bringing to the table."
As Clayton himself pointed out on Monday, there was an unusually large group of impact receivers in the draft pool this weekend, each of them bringing a good set of skills and character traits to that table. A record seven receivers went in the first round, including five in the first 15 picks, and as Clayton said, it's a decent bet that all seven drafting teams will be happy with their acquisitions. But the former Tiger did point out one thing that he possesses that the others might not – championship experience.
With the Baton Rouge native playing one of the lead rolls for the Tigers, LSU won the national championship with a Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma. Clayton then declared for the draft as an underclassmen, but he still hungers to add to his championship total.
"When you have success, which I did as a freshman when we won the SEC, it really sets the tone. When you win a championship, the next season you want to win a championship again. Who's to say it's going to happen, but that's just the level that you're on. You talk about pride – once you win a championship, it's there. It's embedded in you. You have that spirit. You've had a taste of it and you just want to go out and get it again, every year."
As Clayton noted several times during his press conference, his new team is just 16 months removed from a Super Bowl championship. Last year brought a surprising 7-9 stumble, but the ultra-aggressive approach the team has taken towards its roster construction this spring indicates an all-out effort to get back to the top. Now.
There was already a growing sense of purpose at One Buccaneer Place over the spring. Clayton's arrival, heralded on Monday morning, only adds to that feeling.
"It's a big day for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a big day, I think, for Mr. Clayton, and certainly for me," said Gruden. "Michael Clayton is unique, he's a leader, he's an inspiring, charismatic football player, very talented. He's physical, and he's going to give us something this offensive football team needs, and I know our players at One Buc Place are very excited."