WR Michael Spurlock made Buccaneer history in 2007 when he recorded the first kickoff return for a touchdown in team annals
With Sammie Stroughter following Clifton Smith to the injured reserve list this week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were getting a little thin in the kick returner department.
In response, the Buccaneers brought back a familiar face on Tuesday, signing wide receiver Micheal Spurlock and releasing wide receiver Yamon Figurs to make room on the 53-man roster.
What do Stroughter, Smith and Spurlock have in common, other than their alliterative surnames? They are the only three men in the Buccaneers' 34-season history who have returned kickoffs for touchdowns.
Spurlock will forever hold a special place in franchise history, as he was the first of those three to find the end zone. When the former college quarterback raced 90 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff against the Atlanta Falcons on December 16, he ended a 32-year Buccaneer drought. He was the 140th player to return a kickoff for the team, and his touchdown sprint was the 1,865th kickoff runback in franchise annals.
Spurlock's dash against the Falcons was also the longest kickoff return in Buccaneer history until Smith scored the second touchdown on a 97-yarder at Kansas City on November 2, 2008.
Smith went on to make the Pro Bowl as an undrafted rookie last year and was having another fine season in 2009 before a pair of concussions landed him on injured reserve in Week 14. The first concussion occurred early in the Buccaneers' Week Six game against Carolina, opening the door for Stroughter to take over the return duties and promptly tie Smith's record with his own 97-yard touchdown against the Panthers. However, Stroughter suffered a broken foot late in this past Sunday's win over the Seattle Seahawks and was placed on injured reserve on Monday.
All of which led to the re-signing of Spurlock, who played seven games for the Buccaneers in 2007. During that time he returned 16 kickoffs for 444 yards and four punts for 30 yards. His average of 27.8 yards per kickoff runback ranks third in team history, not surprisingly behind the career marks of Stroughter (29.5) and Smith (28.3).
The 5-10, 214-pound Spurlock went to training camp with the Buccaneers in 2008 but this time ended up on the practice squad, where he spent all 16 weeks of the season. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the San Francisco 49ers this past January. He found a spot on the 53-man roster to open the season but was eventually released after the signing of first-round pick Michael Crabtree. Before his release, Spurlock played in four games for the 49ers and ran once for three yards.
Spurlock began his career as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals in 2006. He spent most of his rookie campaign on the practice squad but was activated for Arizona's '06 season finale and recorded four receptions for 31 yards against the San Diego Chargers.
Spurlock also played for the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League. As a collegian at Mississippi, he played quarterback and running back and appeared in 22 games with eight starts. As a senior, Spurlock started seven games at quarterback and one at running back and threw for 1,709 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions while adding two rushing scores.
Figurs signed with the Buccaneers on October 13. He played in three games, returning five kickoffs for 105 yards (21.0 avg.) and two punts for 21 yards (10.5 avg.).