G Russ Hochstein speaks to kids about the importance of education in his life during last fall's Hometown Huddle at the Ponce De Leon Boys & Girls Club
Is it conceivable that a player who was inactive for all 16 games of the season could be named his team's rookie of the year?
It is when the people making the selection happen to run the team's community relations department.
Guard Russ Hochstein, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' fifth-round draft choice last April, was tabbed as the most valuable newcomer of 2001 by members of the Bucs' Community Relations department, a tribute to the tireless work he put into his new community. A former Nebraska standout and a lifelong resident of the Cornhusker State, Hochstein had been to Tampa only once before his selection by the Bucs, as a small child. That didn't stop him from embracing his new town warmly.
In fact, it was his experience at NU that prompted Hochstein to make the most of his role as a recognizable community figure in Tampa.
"In college, I had two great head coaches (Tom Osborne and Frank Solich) who tried to get as many players as active as they could in the community," said Hochstein. "There were some times in college that I wasn't able to do that. I felt like sometimes I didn't give enough, even after some of the times that I had become involved.
"I figured I wasn't going to do that again if I got another shot at it, in the NFL. I decided that, if I had the time, I would put as much into it as I could. I just felt it was one of those things that we are responsible, as players, to do. So many people look up to NFL players as role models, so it was kind of a duty to get involved."
Hochstein was a charter member of the Buccaneers' 'Rookie Club,' established this season to involve the team's first-year players, as a group, in charitable appearance throughout the season. The idea is to help the rookies learn more about their new community while also serving the many worthwhile charitable organizations in the area.
He made it to three of the four Rookie Club events, plus a variety of additional activities not limited to the newcomers. Among the events in which Hochstein chose to become involved as a rookie were: