Danny Noble was an undrafted free agent who needed a tryout in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rookie mini-camp this past spring to find a spot on an NFL roster. On Friday night, Noble was lining up next to the Buccaneers' starting offensive line and catching passes from quarterback Josh Freeman in the team's Week Two preseason game against Tennessee.
It might seem like fortune is smiling on Noble, an athletic tight end out of the University of Toledo and one of the lesser-known players on Tampa Bay's 90-man camp roster. However, Head Coach Greg Schiano says Noble has made his own good fortune.
With second-year man Luke Stocker out for Friday's game, the Bucs needed somebody else from a fairly crowded group of tight ends to step up and take the snaps Stocker would usually get with the starting crew. Schiano decided to take a closer look at the rookie from Toledo.
"People say you're lucky…when preparation meets opportunity that's when you're lucky," said Schiano. "Danny had done enough to warrant giving him more plays when Luke went down."
And thus Noble got an opportunity that many young players on a bloated camp roster never see, even if they are considered promising prospects. He would have played at some point on Friday night anyway, but Stocker's absence meant he could be evaluated in a prime situation, with a presumably more effective offensive crew against the opposition's best defenders.
Noble finished the game with two catches for 11 yards. On a night when the Buccaneers' passing game struggled to get anything going – and was largely eschewed in the fourth quarter – that was actually the most receptions for any Tampa Bay player against the Titans. Those obviously aren't overwhelming numbers, but Noble didn't squander his chance to play with the first team.
"I think Danny did some good things," said Schiano. "He's getting better. You know how it is: When one guy goes down, it's another man's opportunity. Was he spectacular, no. But I thought he did a good job for a guy [seeing] his first real bunch of action. That's promising. We'll just keep moving forward with it."
The 6-5, 248-pound Noble is big and athletic, and could be the sort of blocking/pass-catching dual threat at tight end that teams search for when filling out their depth at the position. He suffered a broken leg six games into his senior year at Toledo, which likely hurt his chances to be drafted or signed immediately after the final round in April. However, Noble has found a spot with the Buccaneers, and judging from Friday's action, he has a chance to make it stick.