(Editor's Note: The following question-and-answer session with rookie running back LeGarrette Blount first appeared in a weekly game preview that is delivered each week to members of the One Buc Club, exclusively. The weekly preview also contains an in-depth look at that weekend's matchup, with injury updates, players who are on hot streaks and players who are due, statistical trends that could affect the game's outcome, five opponents to keep an eye on, and more. The One Buc Club is free and open to all fans; to learn more and to sign up, please *click here.)*
If you had told a die-hard Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, back during the dog days of training camp in August, that midway through the 2010 season a man by the name of LeGarrette Blount would be leading the team in rushing, the likely response would have been, "Who?"
Actually, the name might have rung a bell among knowledgeable college football fans, but Blount certainly wasn't in Tampa Bay's plans during camp. The former Oregon Duck didn't even become a Buccaneer until September, after signing with Tennessee as an undrafted free agent, surviving the Titans' initial roster cuts to make the 53-man roster then being released shortly after.
Despite that circuitous path to Tampa, Blount has emerged as perhaps the best rookie running back in the NFL, and the potent weapon the Buccaneers' ground attack had sorely needed.
A Florida native, Blount has racked up 441 rushing yards so far in 2010, good enough for second-best among all rookies. He trail rookie leader Chris Ivory by just 40 yards, despite giving them essentially a six-week head start.
Few would have predicted Blount's meteoric rise from undrafted rookie and early roster casualty to rookie star, but Blount says he never doubted himself. For him, it was just a matter of finding an opportunity to show what he could do. Below Blount talks about his first season in the NFL in an exclusive Q&A for the One Buc Club.
What was the draft process like, and did it unfold like you expected? Did you think you might get drafted, and how much did that even matter to you?
"I thought I was going to get drafted, but in the end it really didn't matter to me. I just wanted to get my shot. It was just about getting an opportunity."
You signed as an undrafted rookie with the Titans, and I imagine your primary goal was simply to make the 53-man roster. How did you approach training camp and that whole process?
"Work hard. I knew I was going to have to work harder than everyone else because I wasn't drafted, and I was going to have to put in some extra time and study some extra film and do things like that to continue with being a part of the team and get on the 53-man roster and hopefully the 45-man roster. I did everything I could to do that, and unfortunately it didn't work out."
You made the 53-man roster with the Titans, but were released a short time later. Was that difficult, going from the elation of making an NFL roster to suddenly looking for a new opportunity? Were you surprised about being cut, and what was your mindset throughout that whole situation?
"I was surprised about being cut, but as a rookie, it's kind of hard. You've got to grow fast and become a pro. You know that these things happen all the time and you've got to be prepared for the worst at all times and just go out and do everything you can to not let it happen."
When you were claimed by the Buccaneers, what went through your head, and what did you envision might come out of the opportunity that was being presented to you in Tampa?
"Just the fact that I'm going to get a chance to play. They were going to give me a fair chance to show what I can do and a valid chance to do everything I can to help this team win.
You grew up in Florida. What did you know about the Bucs coming in, and was it exciting to get a chance to return to your home state to play professional football?
"I knew about the Bucs. Growing up in Florida I knew about the Bucs and the Miami Dolphins. I just never really followed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because the Miami Dolphins were my favorite team. I just knew that about their record and that they had Cadillac [Williams]. It was definitely exciting coming back here. I'm from only three hours away from here, born and raised, so it's exciting my family can come and watch me play."
Fast forward a bit, and now you're arguably the team's most dangerous weapon in the running game. Did you ever imagine you'd find yourself playing such a big role so early in your NFL career?
"Oh yeah. I figured that I had the talent to do it, it was just about if I got that chance. The chance was presented to me to split time with Cadillac and do everything I can to help this offense with him being the starting running back and the premier running back. I'm just kind of taking a backseat role to him and doing whatever I can to help him out."
The Bucs are relying on a large group of rookies playing key roles this year. In fact, 12 rookies started or saw action in the game against Atlanta two weeks back. As one of those young players, does it surprise you at all how well this team is playing, and do you see the Bucs continuing to compete for a playoff spot down the stretch?
"Yeah, it doesn't surprise me one bit. I know everybody here is talented because that's why they got drafted. I think we can continue the success. It's not a fluke. It's not something that we're just winning on luck. We're making plays. If we continue to do everything and become more consistent with it, then we can do good things."
Is it exciting to think about what the future might hold for this team, considering how young the core group of players is?
"Definitely. We're going to grow together, we're going to learn together. This is our first year as a team, all of us rookies, so we can just imagine how things are going to be the next few years."
You've got a couple of veterans in your position group in Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham, but as a rookie just beginning your NFL career, who have you really found yourself relying on, whether a player or coach?
"I'm going to continue to lean on Cadillac, I'm going to continue to lean on Earnest, all those guys, and continue to do everything they ask of me and everything they need me to do. I'm going to continue to back them up and learn from them and learn how to become a pro from them."
You've obviously overcome some ups and downs already in your young NFL career, but you've made quite a fast rise from undrafted rookie free agent, to getting cut in Tennessee, to now being one of the most impressive rookie running backs in the league. Looking back, did you ever doubt you'd reach this point, and looking forward, what are your goals for the rest of the season and beyond?
"I never doubted I was going to reach this point at all. I knew had the talent. I knew had the drive to do it. It was just a fact of whether I got the opportunity. Now I'm just going to continue to run the ball, continue to learn this offense, and ask Cadillac and Earnest for help."