Preparing for His First NFL Game, Vincent Testaverde Heeds Dad's Words

For Vinny Testaverde, it was the Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Stadium and the first drive of the second half on a hot August evening. His first pass was complete to tight end Ron Hall for seven yards and a first down. He took his first sack at the end of that same drive. He directed his first scoring drive on the next possession. He threw his first touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter, again to Hall, then two more in rapid succession to lead a furious rally that came up one point short in a 31-30 defeat.

All of this happened in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey, as the Buccaneers had made the Heisman Trophy winner from Miami the first overall pick in the 1987 draft a few months earlier. Now, incredibly, Testaverde's son, Vincent, is going to get his own chance to build his first NFL memories while playing for the Buccaneers.

The younger Testaverde grew up in Tampa because his father played six seasons for the franchise and settled down in the Bay area despite lasting another 15 years in the NFL. Vincent played his prep ball at Jesuit High School, about a mile from the Bucs' home stadium, before heading off to Texas Tech. He later transferred to his dad's former school and then to Albany, where he got his first extended chance to play last fall.

The Buccaneers first brought in a second generation of Testaverde throwers in May, when they invited Vincent to their rookie mini-camp on a tryout contract. When fellow undrafted rookie Nick Fitzgerald pulled a hamstring before the start of training camp and landed on the active/non-football injury list, the Bucs called in Testaverde and he got about a week-and-a-half of practice with the team. Now he's back again because Blaine Gabbert suffered a shoulder injury in last Friday's win over Cleveland…and by the way, Vincent is going to play in the preseason finale in just a few days. He's going to play a lot.

Neither Gabbert nor starter Jameis Winston will take the field in Dallas on Thursday night, and Fitzgerald is still sidelined. That leaves only Testaverde and Ryan Griffin, who has already had a very busy preseason. Head Coach Bruce Arians said Griffin, "won't play much." That leaves the offense primarily in Testaverde's hands, and fortunately he remembers a lot of it from his previous run in training camp.

"That's what Coach Arians is telling me," said Testaverde. "He's been giving me a lot of reps this week, working on all the plays, working on getting those down. I'm staying in my playbook so that I'm ready.

"I was here a couple of weeks ago, so I remember a good amount of the stuff. It's good that he's giving me my own kind of menu for the game. I'm still going to have to know the entire game plan, but I've given him a list of plays I'm really comfortable with and hopefully he can stick to those the majority of the time."

Arians asked the young quarterback to help him come up with that limited menu so that the offense would have a chance to move the ball despite just three practices with Testaverde at the helm.

"We talked about it today – I said, 'Give me 10 things that you can go out there and you know where this ball is supposed to go,' and he kind of knew the whole game plan. He’s going to go back through his reads. He knows all the routes, but he’s just going back through his reads and when he gets certain coverages, [know] where to go with it."

Testaverde has been involved in a game at AT&T Stadium before; Texas Tech and Baylor played their annual rivalry game in Arlington for most of the last decade and Testaverde was with the Red Raiders in 2014. He didn't appear in that game, however. Now he's headed back to Arlington knowing he's definitely going to see the field, and he's going to have some special guest looking on: Vinny and Mitzi Testaverde.

"Mom and dad are going," said Vincent. "They are [excited]. They give me a lot of support and tell me to stay excited. They know I'm going to be nervous, it being the first game, but they've kept me confident."

Vincent Testaverde has obviously gained from a lifetime of tutelage from an NFL quarterback in his own home, one who threw for nearly 50,000 yards and who is now the quarterbacks coach, appropriately, at Jesuit. He'll take one lesson into particular into his big night on Thursday.

"What he always tells me is to trust in my ability, trust what I see and don't hesitate," he said. "Once I'm out there, just play fast and play your game. For me, it's after that first snap [that the jitters go away]. Everything leading up to the game is kind of a little bit nervous, but once I'm in there, once that first snap goes, it's game time."

Vinny Testaverde almost surely remembers his first completion to Ron Hall. Maybe Vincent's first pass will find its way into the hands of Justin Watson or Scotty Miller. Maybe he'll throw his first touchdown pass to Bruce Anderson or Anthony Johnson. Whoever it is, Testaverde will remember it for the rest of his life, and just like his dad those first memories will be tinted with Buccaneer colors.

"I've been preparing for this my whole football career and now it's finally happening," he said. "So I'm going to definitely try to do my best to take advantage of it."

The countdown to season kickoff is on! The Bucs are kicking off the NFL’s 100th season with a FREE Tim McGraw pregame concert for all fans with a ticket to the home opener on Sept. 8! Get your tickets today.

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