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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Yaya Diaby Strives to "Earn the Respect" During Rookie Minicamp 

Third-round pick Yaya Diaby is acclimating to the NFL at rookie minicamp, seeking to foster growth through absorption 


Rookie minicamp is underway for the Buccaneers at the AdventHealth Training Center, as players concluded their first practice on Friday. The initial step in the offseason training program is designed to give the rookie class an opportunity to have a head start in the acclimation process to the pros before veterans arrive and full-team practices commence in a few weeks. The allotted weekend is a time for rookies to leave an impression by showcasing their skills and retention of the on-field instruction.

Bucs' third-round pick, Yaya Diaby, has forged an unorthodox path to the NFL, but it is one that shaped his current mindset. As a no-star recruit out of Clayton High School due to his small 200-pound frame, Diaby spent a year working at Atlanta Hartsfield-Airport, assisting passengers who needed a wheelchair. He worked at the airport until he received the chance to try out at Georgia Military College, a juco program 10 miles away from his high school. Over two seasons at Georgia Military College, Diaby compiled 77 tackles, 24.0 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks. Diaby cemented his role as the No. 3 juco strongside defensive end and the No. 2 juco recruit out of Georgia in the 2020 class, garnering an offer from various programs. He eventually committed to Louisville, where he became a three-year starter in former defensive coordinator Bryan Brown's three-man front. Diaby took the path less traveled, but it landed him at the NFL's doorstep, nonetheless.

"Everybody has a different journey and working at the airport, it just made me stronger mentally," Diaby explained. "[Taught me] to not take things for granted. Certain guys come out of high school and go straight to a Power 5 school. I just took a different path and that path worked for me. I am here now."

Diaby emerged at Louisville with a breakout campaign in 2022, notching personal bests in sacks (9.0) and tackles for loss (14.0), trailing only Yasir Abdullah for the most on the team, with his sack total ranking second in the ACC. He played a crucial role in one of the most impenetrable fronts in college football with naturally explosive traits. Diaby is a physical run defender with superb speed in pursuit to make plays up and down the line of scrimmage. With an impressive speed/power profile and a 4.51 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, he drew notice from the Buccaneers. Diaby attributed his ascension in 2022 to mental absorption and "eagerness" to learn. Now, he will strive to refine his craft through education, implementing tips from peers and coaches.

"I just want to be a sponge and learn and adapt to the new style," Diaby explained. "Right now, I am just trying to earn the respect. Then, once I do that, I am definitely taking a leadership role."

With the Bucs in Todd Bowles' 3-4 base, hybrid sub-package system, Diaby is getting work at outside linebacker. As Diaby continues to develop and learn the playbook, his stock will rise. He has the traits to become an impactful leverage-power player, working his way into the rotation. Right now, the staff is assessing his skillset to maximize Diaby's potential on the field.

"We see him as an outside linebacker in-phase and he can help us in sub [packages]," said Head Coach Todd Bowles on Diaby. "He can also go inside some so as he gets acclimated to the system, it is just a matter of what other tools does he have to see if we can move him around. He has heavy hands, and he is a load to handle."

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