Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Myron Lewis had a rooting interest in the first game of the 2012 NCAA college football season on Thursday night, as did offensive lineman Jamon Meredith. Thursday happened to be a particularly busy and important time for everyone in the Buccaneers' locker room, however, with the final round of roster cuts coming the next day and the season opener not long after that.
For that reason, Lewis and Meredith didn't really have a chance to get any proper locker-room trash-talking going, and maybe that was fortunate for Lewis, given that Meredith's Gamecocks stand ninth in the preseason rankings. Not that Lewis was lacking in confidence in his alma mater.
"I guarantee that my Vandy boys are going to win," said Lewis with a big smile. "They're going to do it. I love Coach [James] Franklin, I love what he's doing with everything there and he's building a great team. I can't wait to see them play tonight."
It appears Lewis' confidence was well-founded, even if his prediction didn't quite stick, as Vanderbilt gave the #9 Gamecocks all they could handle before falling, 17-13, on Thursday night.
Whether or not Lewis and Meredith find any time to trade pregame barbs, those two are the first on the Bucs' roster to experience a very welcome part of the rhythm of an NFL season: The return of college football. Even though everyone in the locker room has moved on to the next level of the game, and made football their actual profession, the college game is still extremely popular among NFL players. For one thing, it provides the perfect opportunity for teammates to let loose a little bit amid the pressures and responsibilities of their jobs.
Alma mater support sometimes reaches fevered levels in the locker room.
"Oh yeah, there's always going to be trash-talking when your schools play each other," said Lewis. "There's a lot of arguing in the locker room…it's all fun and games. Everybody supports their college but everybody enjoys the talk and it helps build camaraderie within the team."
There are two more games on Friday night after the Vandy-SC opener, and then the college schedule kicks off in earnest on Sunday, highlighted by No. 8 Michigan at No. 2 Alabama. There are some extremely important days just ahead for the Buccaneers, and then 17 weeks of what will hopefully be a successful playoff chase. Still, the arrival of the college game is a welcome diversion for these very busy athletes.
"I'm mostly worried about doing my job here these days," said Lewis. "But college football is great when you get a chance to go back and visit your school and see your old teammates play, or even catch them on TV. It feels like getting back in the groove of things, rooting for your alma mater, and that's pretty exciting every year when the season begins."