Darrell Pasco was born in Tampa, grew up in Clearwater and played his high school ball at Countryside before eventually landing at Georgia Southern. Unsurprisingly, then, Pasco lists the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as his favorite team in his GSU bio.
Thanks to his strong performance during a just-concluded mini-camp at One Buccaneer Place, Pasco can now call himself a Buccaneer.
The speedy and intelligent cornerback - he played on the chess team as well as the football team during two years at the Georgia Military College - was one of five players signed by Tampa Bay on Monday following the conclusion of the three-day mini-camp.
In addition to Pasco, the Buccaneers also inked Nebraska wide receiver Chris Brooks, Texas A&M guard Lee Grimes, Rutgers defensive end George Johnson and Clemson fullback Rendrick Taylor.
The Bucs have now added 18 undrafted rookies to their roster since the end of the 2010 NFL Draft the previous Saturday. The team had actually inked 15 such players before the rookie mini-camp this past weekend but subsequently released two - Texas A&M defensive end Matt Featherston and Tennessee guard Vlad Richard - on Monday along with its five signings.
The five players signed Monday were among the 49 who participated in the Bucs' rookie mini-camp on tryout contracts. As usual, the pool of talent that had been passed over through the previous week's draft and the flurry of undrafted rookie signings produced some hidden gems, such as a hard-working pass-rusher in Johnson and a converted receiver-turned-punishing-blocker in Taylor.
In one manner or another, those five impressed Raheem Morris and the Buccaneers' coaching staff and will now get a longer opportunity to prove they belong in the NFL.
"Either he brings something completely different that you didn't have, and it's just something else, something that you can use as a toy, a luxury so to speak," said Morris about the tryout players who make the cut. "Or, he comes in and just blows you away with effort. You say, 'Wow, how did this guy not get drafted? How was he not high on our list before? We were wrong on that one?' It's okay to say that, because we weren't the only team that was wrong. All those guys coming in get a chance to be in the building, you get a chance to meet them and really see them, how they work, how much they love football."
This year's tryout standouts hope to follow in the footsteps of other current Buccaneers who rose from tryout players to members of the regular-season roster. The prime example is, of course, Pro Bowl kick returner Clifton Smith, a Fresno State running back who lacked the size to attract NFL scouts in 2008. Smith came to the Bucs' rookie camp that spring on a tryout basis, earned a roster spot and eventually took over the team's kick return duties at midseason, giving him enough time to earn an all-star spot with one of the best return seasons in franchise history.
Last year, Hofstra running back Kareem Huggins used the same camp to earn a more permanent spot, was impressive on the practice field in the fall and eventually got a late-season call-up to the 53-man roster. Offensive linemen Demar Dotson and Marc Dile also turned their tryouts into a longer look, and Dotson actually spent the entire 2009 season on the Buccaneers' active roster. Can one of the above five do the same?
Brooks didn't have overwhelming statistics at Nebraska, but the 6-2, 215-pound wideout caught the Bucs' eye with his combination of size and agility. Brooks finished his Cornhuskers career with 17 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Fourteen of those receptions coming last year in his senior campaign despite the fact that he was hampered by a ribs injury for a good portion of the season. Brooks was also a strong player in the kicking game for the Huskers, earning special teams captains honors on several occasions during the 2008 season. He hails from St. Louis, Missouri.
The 6-6, 309-pound Grimes primarily played tackle at Texas A&M but could figure into the Buccaneers' depth on the line's interior, as he was worked at guard over the weekend. Grimes was a second-team All-Big 12 selection by the league's coaches this past fall after starting for the second consecutive season at right tackle. He started 23 of the Aggies' last 24 games at that spot, in fact, and in 2009 helped the A&M offense pile up more than 465 total yards per game, including 190.4 on the ground. Grimes played his prep ball in Brownwood, Texas.
Johnson was a highly-recruited pass-rusher coming out of high school in Glassboro, New Jersey but his full potential was held back somewhat at Rutgers by a string of unrelated injuries. Still, the gregarious 6-4, 265-pound pass-rusher was able to play in 38 games and compile 132 tackles, 13 sacks, 31.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, two interceptions and three passes defensed. Johnson peaked as a senior in 2009, notching 6.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He came to Tampa seeking to prove that any previous injury issues were behind him and was impressive on the Bucs' practice field.
After picking off 10 passes in two seasons (and perhaps an unprotected rook or two) at GMU, Pasco moved to Georgia Southern and stepped immediately into the team's defensive back rotation. He played in 11 games with three starts in 2008, notching 36 tackles, eight passes defensed and one fumble recovery. A starter last fall, Pasco rang up 34 tackles, picked off two passes, broke up 12 more and recovered two fumbles, one of which he returned 85 yards for a touchdown. He also saw work as a kick returner for GSU.
Taylor spent his first three seasons at Clemson as a receiver, catching 46 passes for 480 yards and one touchdown. After missing the 2008 season due to injuries, he was asked to convert to fullback during the spring of 2009 and was an immediate hit at his new position. The 6-2, 265-pound athlete ran 13 times for 37 yards and caught eight passes for 53 yards as a senior but may have made his biggest impact as a lead-blocker. Clemson's C.J. Spiller, the ninth overall pick in this year's NFL Draft, rushed for 1,271 yards last year as the Tigers' rushing attack produced 170.4 yards per contest overall. Taylor hails from Clio, South Carolina.