Former Purdue WR Desmond Tardy is one of 33 players who will participate in this weekend's mini-camp on tryout contracts
One is the son of a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back. Another just played his first season of college football after spending the previous four years on the hardwood. Yet another is coming off a 72-catch season in which he was third on his team in receiving.
Just under three dozen young men with little or no NFL experience will compete in this weekend's rookie mini-camp at Buccaneer headquarters, many of them with very interesting backstories. What's potentially far more interesting than the backgrounds of Gary Anderson, Jr., Demar Dotson and Tommy Saunders, however, are the stories these players hope to write going forward.
Players with tryout contracts know only that they are signed on for the next three days. Still, they will have three full-scale practices and several walk-throughs during that span to make a lasting impression. If this year's camp is similar in talent to the ones the Bucs have conducted in recent springs, it's likely that at least a couple of these tryout players will subsequently be signed to the roster.
Last year, for instance, four of the 38 players who tried out during the rookie camp were signed to the 80-man roster when it was over: defensive tackle Chris Bradwell, wide receiver Amarri Jackson, center John Rockford and running back Clifton Smith.
Smith certainly fashioned a thrilling story, ending his season in the Pro Bowl as the NFC's designated kick returner, but he wasn't the only one to get a boost from that camp. Bradwell made it through to the end of the preseason and later found his way onto Tampa Bay's practice squad; he was re-signed in 2009 and will get another chance to make the roster this summer. Jackson was cut prior to camp but he obviously made an impression; the Buccaneers invited him back to the rookie camp on another tryout this year.
Jackson is one of four products of the nearby University of South Florida who are on this year's list of 34 tryout players. There are also two players from Troy, which produced one of last year's undrafted free agent successes in cornerback Elbert Mack, and two each from Florida State, Mississippi State, Murray State and James Madison.
So which of the tryout players will turn this weekend's opportunity into a more lasting shot at the NFL. These are the 33 men in the running:
|LB||Adetokunbo Abanikanda||Southern Miss|
|RB||Gary Anderson, Jr.||Rice|
|DE||Jarrett Buie||South Florida|
|FB||Michael Christen||North Carolina A&T|
|LB||Maurice Crum||Notre Dame|
|G||Calvin Darrity||North Carolina|
|OL||Marc Dile||South Florida|
|T||Demar Dotson||Southern Miss|
|P||Matt Fodge||Oklahoma State|
|G||Michael Gates||Mississippi State|
|TE||Cedric Hill||South Florida|
|WR||Amarri Jackson||South Florida|
|WR||Dorrell Jalloh||West Virginia|
|QB||Rodney Landers||James Madison|
|RB||Jay Lucas||Southeastern Louisiana|
|CB||Evan McCullough||James Madison|
|RB||Paul McKinnis||Murray State|
|DE||Geneath Moffett||Florida State|
|WR||Co-Eric Riley||Mississippi State|
|LB||Marcellus Speaks||Jackson State|
|LB||Nathan Williams||Murray State|
The majority of these players are rookies getting their first crack at the NFL. However, unsigned first-year players like Jackson are also eligible, and five of the Buccaneers' own first-year men will take part in the mini-camp as well: Bradwell, cornerback Kyle Arrington, defensive end Louis Holmes, linebacker Jamall Johnson and defensive tackle Dre Moore. With those five plus six draft picks and eight undrafted free agent signees, the Bucs will be able to put more than 50 players on the field for the three-day camp.
Anderson hopes to follow in his father's footsteps. The elder Gary Anderson was a running back for the Buccaneers from 1990-93 and an NFL player for nine seasons with Tampa Bay, San Diego and Detroit. He also played for the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL for three seosns before joining the Chargers. He ranks 11th in team history with 1,159 rushing yards. His son played cornerback and ran track at Rice, competing in the heptathlon.
Dotson played basketball at Southeastern Illinois College and Southern Mississippi for four years, providing a strong inside presence for the Golden Eagles. He decided to give football a try last fall and the Southern Miss coaches put the 6-9, 268-pounder at defensive tackle, where he appeared in seven games, with one start. The Buccaneers have yet another idea for Dotson to try: offensive tackle.
Saunders was an important cog in the Missouri Tigers' extremely prolific offense, but he was overshadowed by such high-profile draft prospects as Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman. Saunders, who caught 72 passes for 833 yards and seven touchdowns in 2008, was also a holder for placekicks, a team captain and the man Missouri coaches called "Mr. Dependable."
There are other interesting tales for these little-known Bucs-for-now, pulling out names essentially at random.
Murray State linebacker Nathan Williams finished fifth in the balloting last year for the Buck Buchanon award, which is given to the best defensive player in the FCS division.
Troy defensive back Terence Moore is getting the Jermaine Phillips treatment; that is, he's a big physical safety who the Buccaneers are going to try at outside linebacker.
Rodney Landers was the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year as James Madison's quarterback in 2008 but NFL teams had him on their draft boards this spring as a potential defensive back, wide receiver or running back. Not this weekend. The Buccaneers are going to let Landers share the passing duties this weekend with first-round draft pick Josh Freeman.
Will any of those players stand out this weekend? Maybe it will be USF tight end Cedric Hill or Florida State defensive end Geneath "Neefy" Moffett. For some of these tryout players, a spot in the Buccaneers' 2009 training camp could be waiting.