Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Blood, Sweat and Tears: Tristan Wirfs Rides the Wave to Tampa

Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs worked hard to make himself a first-round pick and now he's got the enviable task of protecting QB Tom Brady

View pictures of OT Tristan Wirfs, the 13th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were interested in Tristan Wirfs for a long time.

The Iowa offensive tackle had a good meeting with the Buccaneers at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and a Zoom call that went well after the COVID-19 pandemic rendered in-person meetings impossible. It certainly wouldn't have been a shock for Wirfs to hear his name called by the Buccaneers in the "virtual" 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

But that call came just a little earlier than expected. Unwilling to risk the possibility of another team leap-frogging them to get Wirfs, the Buccaneers traded up one spot from the 14th pick to the 13th spot, sending a fourth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers and getting a seventh-rounder back. Then General Manager Jason Licht placed that call to Wirfs.

"He said, 'We've just traded with San Francisco and you're going to be a Buccaneer,'" said Wirfs on Thursday night via yet another Zoom call. "It was kind of a culmination of all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears coming together. It was a big wave of emotion. It was incredible."

The specifics of his destination locked in the emotional response for Wirfs, but he surely expected to hear his name called relatively early on Thursday night. He was one of the most highly-regarded offensive tackle prospects in the field, and he had helped his stock by dominating the drills at the NFL Scouting Combine. That included a 4.85-second 40-yard dash, essentially unheard of for a 320-pound man. Moreover, Wirfs thought he was a pro-ready prospect.

"I think I came into the night pretty calm and collected," he said. "Coming from Iowa, we run a pretty pro-style offense, and I know when I was at the Combine I knew all the verbiage teams were using for fronts and play calls. It was pretty similar to what I was taught, what I heard at Iowa. I just felt wherever I went I was going to come ready to work. That's kind of the mentality that was installed in me at Iowa."

The Buccaneers have an open job at right tackle, which has mostly been handled by Demar Dotson over the last decade. Dotson is an unsigned free agent and unlikely to return, especially after the team signed former Colt Joe Haeg in free agency. Wirfs and Haeg would be the obvious candidates for that right tackle spot, and the Buccaneers wouldn't have spent a fourth-round pick to trade up for the Iowa product if they didn't expect him to step right in.

Wirfs thinks he can help an offensive line that includes former second-round picks Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet and free agent acquisition Ryan Jensen.

"I think I'm a pretty powerful guy," said Wirfs. "I think I come off the line of scrimmage pretty quick. I know I can pull and get out in space well and I think I can get up to the second level pretty fast."

And, of course, the Buccaneers were eager to land a new right tackle because they have added quarterback Tom Brady to lead an potentially prolific offense. The Bucs need to give Brady time to distribute the ball to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Ronald Jones II and others. That's a pretty amazing task for Wirfs to be assuming as he enters the NFL.

"He's been in the league since 2000 and I was born in 1999, so he's been in the league almost as long as I've been alive," said the rookie of his new quarterback. "So it's pretty cool to be able to protect him."

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