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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lavonte David Wouldn't Give Up on Bucs

LB Lavonte David, who signed a new contract with the Bucs on Friday, had to wait frustratingly long into his superb career before tasting the postseason but was driven to stay with the team and help it find success


Lavonte David has played 12 seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a third of them have led to postseason action. He has a Super Bowl championship ring and he's been a part of three division championships. That's not exactly a Patriots-style dynasty, but it has the makings of a fulfilling career for a player focused intently on winning.

As it happened, though, David had to wait longer than he liked for the good stuff.

The Buccaneers drafted David in the second round in 2012 and he was a first-team Associated Press All-Pro by 2013. Personal success in the NFL came quickly to the former Nebraska standout; however, team goals remained frustratingly out of reach. The Buccaneers did not make the playoffs in any of his first eight seasons, and David had to learn how to handle that as he matured, how to not take his frustrations home with him.

And yet he never gave up on the franchise, never took the free agency route to jump to a team that was already where he was trying to take the Buccaneers. He signed a five-year extension with the team before ever sniffing the postseason. He had to see it through.

"I think it's just my personal drive, my personal competitiveness, just knowing that one day everything would be how it is right now," said David. "Being able to win three division championships, getting a Super Bowl out of it – I just knew that one day that would happen. We were able to get the right people in the building and we were able to do that. Just for me personally, I'd feel like I was giving up if I did something like that."

View the top pictures of Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David from his career thus far.

It took to the end of that five-year extension for the breakthrough to happen. It also took the signing of a certain quarterback named Tom Brady, who joined the Buccaneers in March of 2020. Brady, David and company were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy 11 months later after beating Patrick Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. It was Brady's record seventh Super Bowl win but the first for David and most of his teammates, and it made the previous eight years worth it.

"For the organization to draft me and have that faith in me, give me a contract after three years, it just goes to show how they feel about me," said David. "So it was only right that I ride it out to see how far this team could go. It's been a blessing and I'm thankful. We got a Super Bowl out of it so I'm definitely grateful for that."

After getting that first ring, David could have chased glory and dollar signs elsewhere, as he became a free agent the following month. Even then, though, the job wasn't done. The Buccaneers wanted to keep the whole band together for another run at a title, and they were able to do so, with David being one of the key re-signings. He had seen how the organization's culture had changed after the arrival of Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles in 2019 and then Brady a year later, and he wanted to remain a part of that.

"Just talking to those guys, hearing the confidence in their voice and understanding that this is a process, it's going to take time. But those guys came in and made those things work right away. Those guys came in, and that was something that I needed to be a part of. Things didn't work out those previous years [but] you built relationships with people and stuff like that. Things didn't work out, it didn't matter how, things didn't work out. Now you get a sense of having fun and just loving the game more.

"I took losing so hard. Nobody likes to lose. Dealing with that, and then maturing and then having B.A. and them come in, that kind of changed my perspective on a lot of things, just understanding his history and his background and the guys he was bringing in with him. It gave me a new sense of hope. It changed things around."

The Bucs entered the 2020 playoffs as a Wild Card team, but they met another goal in 2021 when they won the NFC South for the first time since 2007. Then they did it again in 2022 and David chose to sign another one-year deal to come back in 2023. Somehow, 12 years in, David put together one of his best seasons yet, with his most tackles (134) since 2015 and his most sacks (4.5) since 2016. That made it clear to both him and the Buccaneers that they should stay together for at least a 13th season. David, who says he is feeling healthy and still has love for the game, officially signed his latest contract on Friday.

Will that be the end of his illustrious career, or will he continue on and join Hall of Famers Rondé Barber and Derrick Brooks the only men to play 14 or more seasons in a Buccaneers uniform? That is apparently a question for another day.

"We're going to worry about 13 right now and then we're going to go from there," said David. "But honestly, I always say the good Lord has blessed me tremendously to be here. I love it, I enjoy it, but we're just going to keep on taking it one day at a time, one year at a time to see how it goes."

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