Earthwind Moreland (38) is one of the few Bucs fast enough to hang with WR Jacquez Green (81)
**"A name pronounced is the recognition of the individual to whom it belongs."
-- Henry David Thoreau**
Do you know Earthwind Moreland?
Of course not. Even the most rabid of Buccaneer fans out there could hardly claim to be conversant with the life of this undrafted rookie from Georgia Southern.
Do you know of Earthwind Moreland? Yes, you probably do.
When the Bucs released a list of about 15 free agents signed immediately after the draft, Moreland's name practically leapt off the page. It has been that way his whole life.
His first name is not difficult to pronounce, it doesn't rhyme with any popular insults and it isn't overly feminine. But it is unforgettable. When this web site ran a poll in April regarding the more unusual names to be added to the team's roster, the best word the author could come up with in the question was 'intriguing'. Earthwind Moreland won that poll in a landslide.
The simple fact is, people are inclined to remember that name. If that is true, in particular, after a Buccaneers game, then Moreland will have gained name recognition. That's the plan.
"When I do something good, they can't forget that name," said Moreland. "If I had an average or usual name, they wouldn't look at that. So that kind of stands out. They can't forget me."
So, if Moreland's lyrical first name – yes, it comes from the group, Earth, Wind & Fire – is a tool to help him in his pursuit, then his mother is an accomplice.
"My mom, she wanted something unusual," he said. "She didn't want a common name, so she decided that would stand out. Plus, she kind of liked that group, also. So, once she got it and it stuck with her, she decided that's what my name was. I've been getting jokes about it since birth."
Not to mention the obvious question about his middle name.
"They always ask me if it's Andfire."
We had tried to resist. But, of course we knew you would want to know. Well...
No, you'll have to wait, because there is more to a name here than just a name. The Bucs aren't in the business of signing players for novelty reasons, and figures such as Jerry Ellison, Jeff Gooch, Shelton Quarles, Karl Williams, Floyd Young, ad nauseum, indicate that the team is willing to give little-known signees a shot. Earthwind Moreland is here to legitimately try to make a name for himself (that one we couldn't resist).
Earthwind is, in fact, a rather apt name for a man who can run at Moreland's breathtaking speed. There was no doubt about that aspect of his game on any team's scouting report; he is considered one of the fastest players in Tampa Bay's camp. In college, he was also considered a good cover corner, but that was at Georgia Southern and there was some doubt as to whether those skills would translate to the NFL level.
Thus, his undrafted status, though Tampa Bay Director of Player Personnel Jerry Angelo admitted in an April interview with Buccaneers.com that the team was considering drafting Moreland in the seventh round before deciding on QB Joe Hamilton. Team sources say the Bucs have been pleasantly surprised with Moreland's cover work in camp.
In his first NFL game, the Bucs' preseason opener against Washington last Friday, Moreland made two tackles on defense and added another on special teams. He actually felt better about his work in the latter department.
"Being a rookie, the main thing is you have to really excel on special teams," said Moreland. "It's real tough to just come in and start. I made some nice plays on special teams, but there were other plays where I didn't do so well. They give you tips on maybe a step or two that you did wrong that you can do better on."
Moreland plans to follow up on those tips. Roster hopefuls aren't always given direct signs as to their chances, so the best approach is to continue to operate at a peak level every day.
"They evaluate each player," said Moreland. "They tell you things you can do better and things you did well. Then you just have to carry that over to the next day. As coaches, they can't just tip you off on whether you're going to be here or not. You have to get better the next game, you can't make the same mistakes the next game.
"Right now, I feel that I'm doing pretty good. The one key thing that I'm really focusing on is trying to stay healthy. It's very hard to make the team as a rookie, whether you're drafted or not, if you're injured. So I'm trying to maintain my health and, after that, just learn from the guys that are here. Like you said, we have a lot of depth. If you can learn from those guys – they're the best defense in the NFL – if you can learn from those guys and remain healthy, everyone should just take your course."
Unlike Hamilton and the other late-round Buc draftees, Moreland had a choice as to his first NFL destination. Even if the level of competition he faced in college raised a few red flags, several teams were more than willing to give Moreland a look in training camp. He chose the Bucs, even though a team that had ranked in the top ten in pass defense for three straight years was obviously deep in the secondary.
"Actually, I did have a few teams (contact me)," said Moreland, "but for some reason, I just felt like this was one of the best places for me to be, in order to make the team. And just the organization...the guys here make you feel at home as opposed to other guys. I haven't been in other camps, but I don't think they're as friendly as helpful as guys on this team."
Plus, the core of the Bucs' defensive backs corps has an interesting mix of backgrounds. Starters John Lynch (Stanford), Damien Robinson (Iowa) and Ronde Barber (Virginia), plus nickel back Brian Kelly (USC) hail from high-profile programs, but rising star Donnie Abraham came out of East Tennessee State and Young is a former free agent from diminutive Texas A&M-Kingsville. Moreland thinks he can make the same unexpected impact as Young, the former Javelina.
"Coming out undrafted and coming from a small school gives me that motivation and drive to show people that I can compete with the top guys that came from the Division I schools," he said. "There's really no difference if there's talent there. If you have it, and you can use it, it really doesn't matter where you came from."
Or what your name is, for that matter. It's just that so much of a person's identity is wrapped up in his name, it simply cannot be ignored. Moreland found that out early.
"I think I was in middle school when somebody asked me that (for the first time in an interview)," he said. "At first, it caught me off guard. I was stunned for a minute, then I responded. Ever since then, when I'm getting interviewed, that's the first thing I think about."
And so, he answers the Earthwind questions with ease, unfazed by the whole issue. He even knows your next question, the one we alluded to earlier.
No. Would a woman creative enough to devise Earthwind be satisfied with a cheap pun. Think again. Moreland's mom came up with another masterpiece for his middle name: Chatavian.
Kind of makes 'Earthwind' seem boring, doesn't it?