The Bucs, including (from left) Monte Kiffin, Joe Barry and Bruce Allen, were obviously pleased when LB Barrett Ruud was still available at #36
When it came time for Barrett Ruud to head to college, there was really no choice to be made. With a great-grandfather, a father and two uncles who had already played at Nebraska, Ruud was the Cornhuskers' easiest recruit ever.
When it came time for Barrett Ruud to begin his professional career, there was literally no choice to be made. Ruud, expected to be a low-first or high-second round pick, would head to whichever team spent a draft pick on him.
Funny how it worked out perfectly both times.
After emerging as a dominant force in the Nebraska defense, Ruud landed in the perfect situation in the NFL. His traits as a player – intensity, instincts, quickness, sideline-to-sideline play – make him a perfect fit for the Buccaneers' speedy, aggressive defense.
"I think I'm a heady player," said Ruud. "I diagnose quickly. And I think I've got good athletic ability, as far as what it takes to play in the defense down in Tampa. You've got to be able to cover and get sideline to sideline, and that's something I take a lot of pride in doing."
Ruud's eventual spot in the Bucs' lineup could be at middle linebacker, a spot currently filled very well by Pro Bowler Shelton Quarles. Size has never been much of a limitation in the Buccaneers' defense, and Ruud has the range to get deep down the field in coverage and the instincts to be productive in the middle.
With Quarles on hand, Ruud may more immediately compete for a spot on the outside, perhaps on the strongside where Ian Gold played in 2004, and will almost certainly excel on special teams. He will have a role, it just may have to develop over time.
"I just know that this kid is going to be able to come through and contribute," said Linebackers Coach Joe Barry. "Where exactly he is going to play, or what position in our defense is he going to play, I don't know. He is a natural 'Mike' linebacker. That's what he played his entire career at Nebraska. He does have the athletic ability and the instinct to play outside linebacker. We'll probably solidify that a little bit later."
Shortly after his selection, Ruud made it clear that he would be pleased to pitch in anywhere the Bucs needed him. He was exceedingly nervous when Tampa Bay was on the clock with the 36th overall pick because he was dying to be a Buccaneer. He says the Bucs have been his favorite team since the late '90s.
"I have no words to describe it," said Ruud. "This was really the pick I was looking hard towards because Tampa's always been my favorite team growing up. I'm just ecstatic to be there. I heard they were interested and I heard that they liked the way I played. I really couldn't be going to a better situation than down there because I love the style of defense they play, that Tampa Two, running all over the field. I'm just thrilled to be a part of it."
Like the Buccaneers' first-round pick, running back Carnell Williams, Ruud is seen as a 'total package' at his position. Also like Williams, Ruud is expected to be very active in his rookie season.
"He's a great player," said Barry. "He got a 40 on his Wonderlic [intelligence test], which is always impressive. As a linebacker coach, the things that I look for are instincts. You have to have instincts to play this position. This kid's production has been awesome. He played as a true freshman, and he was productive. He's going to come in and do a great job as a professional. But like I said, the bottom line is that this guy is athletic, he's productive, he's smart, so he's, in our opinion, the whole package."
Ruud is not just a fan of the Bucs' style of defense, he's a fan of the team itself. He says he began rooting for Tampa Bay – not an obvious choice for a kid in Nebraska – in the '90s, and became even more attached when the team unveiled its new uniforms. His father, Tom, had played under Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin at Nebraska and Barrett had chatted with Kiffin at the Senior Bowl in January. His cousin, safety John Howell, became a Buccaneer in 2001 and provided another connection.
That enough would make the destination a great one for Ruud. Perhaps the best part, however, is that he now will learn at the knee of likely Hall-of-Famer Derrick Brooks.
"It's unbelievable," said Ruud of the opportunity. "He's my favorite linebacker in the league and he's a guy who's been doing it for 10 years now. I first started watching him back in the late '90s when it was Derrick and Hardy Nickerson playing. I've watched him real close every time I've had the chance. It will be a thrill for me."