The Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprised many by passing up Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and California’s Cameron Jordan and selecting Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn with the 20th overall pick in the first round. Clayborn told ESPN’s Suzie Kolber he was excited to land in Tampa Bay.
“It’s a long wait, but it was well worth it,” Clayborn said. “Tampa is where I wanted to be and I’m glad I got to them and I’m glad they picked me. I’m glad to be a Buc.”
Clayborn, once viewed as a potential top 10 pick heading into the 2010 season, saw his stock drop during his senior campaign after notching a disappointing 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble after recording 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Clayborn also raised some eyebrows by skipping the Senior Bowl and finishing his senior season with just one tackle and no sacks against Missouri in the Insight Bowl – despite the fact that quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw the ball 57 times.
“Teams knew that my play was still there but my numbers were down a bit,” Clayborn said. “It wasn’t a concern. My motor was still going and my skills were still there. It is not like I lost a step or whatever.”
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik spoke about Clayborn’s motor and downplayed his lack of sacks during his senior season.
“His motor – he’s a relentless football player,” Dominik said. “He will go full [bore] on every play as long as he can and as hard as he can. You’ll see that. I’m looking forward to our fans seeing this guy play in pewter and red. He’s going to be a guy that attacks the football field and attacks the run. He has some very physical hits. He’s a good finisher. He has good change of direction. We’re very excited about him. He’s going to be a productive football player for us and I know he’s going to make us a better team up front. It all does start up front in terms of attacking the quarterback.
“Sacks sometimes – you can’t just determine a man by his production that way. If he would have come out last year we would talk about how many sacks he did have. This guy is a productive football player. He creates havoc on the football team. He helps other players around him become productive players, which is what we want him to do with Gerald McCoy, Brian Price and Roy Miller. He’s going to do that for our football team. He’s going to continue to generate the push and the pressure that we want to attack and apply to the quarterbacks that we have in our division now that we have Cam Newton as well.”
Clayborn’s stock was further affected by having Erb’s Palsy, a condition in his right shoulder that limits his strength and range of motion. After being selected in the first round, Clayborn is glad that he overcame a condition in which doctors suggested he might not be able to play competitive sports at a young age.
“I was told I couldn’t play football,” Clayborn said. “I was starting behind the eight ball, but I’ve been building up strength in my shoulder since then. The coaches at Iowa helped me out a lot and my trainer now helps me out tremendously. Nothing’s wrong with it, so there is not much to say I guess.
Clayborn told Kolber that him being drafted by the Buccaneers could serve as an inspiration to others with physical limitations.
“It means just keep pushing,” Clayborn said. “People said I wouldn’t be able to play football and held me back and held me back, but I kept going. Whatever your dream is, just stick with it and don’t let anybody hold you from it.”
Dominik said the team did extensive testing on Clayborn’s right shoulder and that the Erb’s Palsy condition does not worry the team because it did not affect his performance at Iowa.
“His shoulder is fine,” Dominik said. “Erb’s Palsy is what the shoulder is. It’s something he was born with. He’s been playing with it and living with it his entire life. It’s nothing that gets worse. It’s just something that happened at birth and it’s something he’s played with his whole life. It’s not something we were concerned about at all as a medical staff.”
The 6-foot-3, 287-pound defensive end said he had a good feeling that the Bucs were going to draft him. PewterReport.com reported last week that Clayborn visited One Buc Place as one of the team’s allotted 30 pre-draft visitors.
“I knew they liked me a lot,” Clayborn said. “I knew that it was a possibility of them picking me. I knew it was between a couple of the D-ends or whatever. I’m a Buc and I’m excited it all worked out. In just talking with my position coaches and talking with the head coach I’m just excited because it is a defense I can do well in, do very well in.”
Soon after being drafted by Tampa Bay, Clayborn received a congratulatory call from defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was the team’s first-round pick a year ago. McCoy and Clayborn are expected to become an inside-outside threat for the Buccaneers in 2011.
“I just got off the phone with McCoy,” Clayborn said. “I’m just excited. He was talking to me a little bit. I know that defense is what I can thrive in, so I’m just excited about it. He just called me and just that they got a great pick in me. He’s excited and I’m excited to work with him and everybody else.
“He talked to me about is guiding me the right way through this whole process and I’m excited to have a guy like that to help me out.”
Dominik hopes that the selection of Clayborn, McCoy and Price over the last two years solidifies Tampa Bay’s defensive line for years to come in terms of the physical presence and toughness that he and Morris are seeking.
“I am very excited about the player that we just selected,” Dominik said. “The mindset that we’ve had in building this football team in terms of building the Bucs two years ago it’s about toughness and it’s about the football player mentality in terms of how hard you play, when you play and where you play – all those things. He also ties into the two-time captain. That’s two years in a row that we have taken a first-round pick that is a two-time captain at a major university. He’s a leader and he brings a lot of traits that we think are very important to this football team, and we are very excited to welcome Adrian Clayborn to this team.”
– Charlie Campbell contributed to this story