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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kalen DeLoach Saw Chance to Succeed in Tampa

Rookie LB Kalen DeLoach, a college free agent from Florida State, got calls from a half-dozen interested NFL teams but saw a chance in Tampa to learn from the likes of Lavonte David and hopefully earn a spot on the team


The 1995 Tampa Bay Buccaneers media guide is the first of 14 to include a bio of linebacker Derrick Brooks. In this case, he was part of a section at the back that listed the Buccaneers' draft picks separately from the veteran players. Brooks – obtained with the 28th overall pick in the 1995 draft after the Buccaneers traded up to pair him with their other first-round pick, Warren Sapp – is described as a "big-play linebacker" with "excellent pass-rush and coverage skills." The bio also notes that Brooks started his Florida State career as a safety, and he is listed at 6-0 and 229 pounds. It was these numbers, considered "undersized" for an NFL linebacker in the mid-90s, that made him still available at the back end of the first round.

Twenty-nine years later, the Buccaneers have another Florida State rookie linebacker on their roster, and another one that has been described as undersized. It would be grossly unfair to compare new Buccaneer Kalen DeLoach – or any linebacker coming into the league, for that matter – to Brooks, a Hall of Famer and one of the most productive linebackers in NFL history. Moreover, Brooks was still a first-round pick, while DeLoach is coming in as a college free agent. The FSU-to-Tampa connection is coincidental but there is some similarity in the opportunity DeLoach sees to show that his height and weight don't define him as a player.

"I feel like I'm strong," said the rookie defender on Saturday, the second day of the Buccaneers' rookie minicamp. "I feel like my size doesn't matter. I like to play in space. You get your hands on me, I'm going to try to get off you. Most of the time, I'm trying to make a play in space and play my game, just do me. I am able to get off blocks. That is what I do."

Meanwhile, that "excellent pass-rush and coverage skills" line from Brooks' rookie bio fits well on DeLoach, too. He had 11.0 sacks in his three years as a starter for the Seminoles and his speed (4.47-second 40-yard dash at the Combine), range and instincts make him a plus pass defender. He had 13 passes defensed and two interceptions over the past three seasons.

"At Florida State, I played all three [linebacker] positions," said DeLoach. "I'm used to playing outside the box, inside the box, the boundary. I think that really helped me a lot to understand all three spots. During practice and film study I'm trying to learn all three spots because you never know where I could be used."

View photos from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rookies taking part in Rookie Minicamp Day 1 at AdventHealth Training Center on Friday, May 10th, 2024.

Actually, it's not completely accurate to call the FSU-to-Tampa connection with Brooks coincidental. Brooks is still a familiar figure in Tallahassee and DeLoach definitely knows his story with the Buccaneers.

"He was around the whole season," said the rookie. "Like you said, [he was] undersized coming in here. I feel like this is a program I could succeed in, because there's a lot of blitzes, a lot of man coverages. That's what I'm used to playing at Florida State. I'm here to make plays and do what I do."

DeLoach says he got calls from six teams wanting to sign him after the draft. Fortunately, the Bucs were one of those teams because he had already scouted out the situation and thought it was a good fit for him. The Bucs' likely starters at linebacker are Lavonte David and K.J. Britt, with the possibility of some SirVocea Dennis action, but the depth chart is mostly young behind David, who is playing on a one-year contract. Britt is also on the last year of his rookie deal.

"With all the teams that called, I definitely looked at who they had in line and how many backups they had in the room," said DeLoach. "Then, you know, I've got Lavonte and K.J., so I've got guys I can learn from. I'm coming here to be a sponge and learn as much as possible, just try to take in what I can and just learn as much as I can. So this was the best choice for me.

"This is probably the best opportunity for [me]. You're learning from two great guys, two vets. It was a no-brainer for me to come here."

DeLoach weighed in at 210 pounds at the Combine but was up to 216 by Florida State's Pro Day. He says he plans to play this season at 220 pounds and is advancing toward that goal with protein shakes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at night. As for the goal of making the Bucs' roster in 2024, he knows his chances probably hinge on finding a role, or multiple roles, on special teams, a part of the game in which he excelled at Florida State.

"Definitely on special teams, big on special teams," said DeLoach. "I'm trying to get involved in any special teams I can get into. Whatever Coach has got me on the depth chart, I'm trying to make sure I put forth my best effort every day, just trying to work my way up on any special teams."

The Buccaneers' 2024 media guide is the first one that will include a bio of Kalen DeLoach. The Bucs still group their draft pick bios together in a separate section after the veteran bios, and the undrafted rookies are also in that part of the book. For DeLoach, the hope is that this opportunity in Tampa will lead to more than just one media guide appearance.

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