Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Why I Raise the Flags: Outside Linebacker Shaq Barrett

Players are fans, too. Hear from some of your favorite players on their passion for the game, like first-year Buccaneer, and current NFL sack leader, Shaq Barrett. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 29, 2019 - Outside Linebacker Shaquil Barrett #58 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Buccaneers won the game, 55–40. Photo By Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The First Wave

I don't even remember being able to make the decision to play football. It just happened. I do remember – this is gross – but putting my brother's mouthpiece in my mouth. Ever since I started playing football, I loved it. I fell in love with football at six.

That's when I started playing, five to seven flag football, for the Charm City Buccaneers. I've got a Charm City Buccaneers tattoo now. It was me and my home boy, we were the running backs and then our quarterback was Mickey. We called him Mickey because he had big ears like Mickey [laughs]. Our plays used to be Tom Left or Jerry Right. He was Jerry and I was Tom because I was bigger. Mickey was like 'Mickey sneak' for the quarterback. Plays were so simple. It was a lot of fun. I came in as a running back because everybody wanted to be a running back when you first started playing. My brother was a running back so I wanted to follow him. That was the glory position – running back or quarterback. I decided on running back because I was pretty fast. I'd run sweeps outside and down the sideline for touchdowns.

I loved football all the way up until maybe third year of high school. I still loved it, but I didn't have as much fun with it. I had been winning in football my whole life. We won a Super Bowl in Pop Warner. I had been through all the emotions of it. I'd lost, too. So, I felt like I'd experienced everything. Parents and coaches would always tell me to be humble when I won. I started being real humble. I'd make a play but I'd expect to make the play so I wouldn't celebrate or anything. That took a lot of the fun out, kind of. But I still played because I was good and knew I could possibly have a future. I really didn't get the fun back until maybe last year. In staying humble, I didn't really go out there and enjoy it. I didn't show emotion. I still really don't show a lot of emotion but I'm getting better at it and getting the fun back.

Planting the Flag

I felt like last year I was the most developed I was as a player and to get the least amount of reps I ever had; it was the time to bet on myself. I just wanted to have the opportunity to start. Talking to my agent, Drew, he was real encouraging to come down here. The team believing in me and everything aligning it makes you be a little more comfortable and allows me to just play and play my normal football.

Flying High

You have to have trust in everybody. We all have to be on the same page and talk and communicate. It's just nice being around a great group of guys. We all work hard. We all have the same goal. We all feel the same about winning and wanting to win and we all have the mindset to change everything. We all bought in and we all want to be that change.

It takes me a while to get close with people but these bonds that I have with my friends on the team now are amazing. And it happened so quickly, too. It has to be like that though so we can all play for each other and know the guy who we're playing with; to feel comfortable like, I'm gonna lay it on the line for the guy next to me. You don't do that for someone you don't really know or talk to. You going to trust them. We need every single person out there.

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