After being introduced to the Tampa Bay media on Friday at One Buccaneer Place, the Buccaneers’ 2011 first-round draft pick, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, revealed that some of Tampa Bay’s NFC South rivals were in hot pursuit of him.
“I knew New Orleans, they liked me. I knew Atlanta liked me,” said Clayborn. “But they traded all their picks away for [Alabama wide receiver] Julio [Jones], so they don’t like me anymore. There were teams that liked me. I knew Tampa liked me the most, so I’m glad I’m a Buc.”
Four picks after Tampa Bay selected Clayborn, New Orleans drafted California defensive end Cameron Jordan.
Another team, the Cleveland Browns, traded up with Kansas City at No. 21 hoping to draft Clayborn, but had to settle for Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor instead, sources told PewterReport.com.
“Yeah, I think they were trading up to get me,” said Clayborn. “I just know they moved up to the spot behind Tampa Bay.”
Despite the interest from other teams, Clayborn said he’s thrilled that he went to Tampa Bay at number 20.
“I’m here and this is where I wanted to be,” Clayborn said. “I just want to say I’m happy to be a Buc. Since I started this draft process it’s been a team I liked the most – loved the most. And when I came for my visit here, visited with the coaches and everybody – it was the best. When I got that call yesterday, man, my eyes just lit up so I want to tell all the Bucs fans thanks for having me here. I’m excited to get started.”
Clayborn entered his senior season at Iowa as a potential top 10 pick coming off a junior year in which he recorded 20 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. But when his numbers dipped to just seven tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble during his senior year, coupled with him skipping the Senior Bowl, Clayborn’s stock dropped.
“I think I proved a lot of people wrong,” Clayborn said. “A lot of people didn’t think I would be a first-round pick this year because my numbers went down. Whatever. I’m just glad I’m a Buc and I slipped – or whatever they want to call it.”
Clayborn said the rapport he developed with Morris and the Tampa Bay coaches was what sold him on wanting to be a Buccaneer.
“The visit at the combine, the visit with the coaches – everything about it,” Clayborn said. “It seems like the type of environment I want to be in, and a defense I definitely want to be in. So I’m excited to get going.”
As the picks were rolling through the first round, Clayborn’s excitement grew as Tampa Bay’s pick approached after 10:00 p.m. on Thursday night.
“[My heart] started pounding, man,” Clayborn said. “It got to – I think it was around like 17 or 18 – and I’m looking around [the green room at the draft]. I’m looking at – what the hell is his name? Cam Jordan? I’m like, is his phone ringing? At one point I see him [and his phone is not ringing]. I’m like, good. Then [Da’Quan] Bowers – I’m like, please, I hope his phone’s not ringing.”
Clayborn’s phone finally rang when Tampa Bay was on the clock and he started a smile that hasn’t left his face in almost 24 hours.
“He said, ‘Ready to be a Buc?” Clayborn said. “It was Mark. I don’t remember most of the conversation … but it was exciting.
“They took forever to say the pick was in. I think it was kind of like three or so minutes. But for seven minutes I kept looking back [at the other players in the green room]. Mark texted my agent and said that it’s a done deal, but I didn’t believe it. My mom [got excited] and I’m saying, ‘No, calm down.’ And when I got the call that’s when I was like, ‘Yeah!’ I wasn’t getting excited until I got the call.”
Clayborn and his mother shared a big hug before he donned his Bucs hat and strolled out to the podium to hold up a Tampa Bay jersey with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I think my mom squeezed the hell out of me, but it was an incredible feeling to get that call and just have everybody focus on you for that for five minutes or whatever. It was pretty sweet,” Clayborn said. “I don’t think my smile has left my face since 10:30 last night, so, it’s exciting to know that a team wants you to be, I guess, that guy for them.”
Because NFC South teams missed out on landing Clayborn in the first round, they now have to face him twice a year. Tampa Bay’s new defensive end is anxious to chase the likes of New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Carolina’s Cam Newton, the Panthers’ first-round draft pick in 2011.
“I’m excited,” Clayborn said. “I don’t really have to go against them. It is their left tackle I’ll be going against,” said Clayborn. “I’ll be doing that and hopefully taking them to the ground. I’m excited to play against guys like that. I was looking at the schedule earlier playing the Colts and playing the Bears. It is going to be fun. I’m excited.”
Clayborn bristled when he saw other defensive ends get drafted before him, beginning with Missouri’s Aldon Smith and followed by Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, North Carolina’s Robert Quinn and Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan.
“I knew I wanted to be at Tampa, so it’s kind of a good thing that those guys were going,” Clayborn said. “But at the same time, I know my skill set and, I don’t know, without being cocky, it was good for those guys to go. But I know I’m better than anyone else. Oh, well. Those guys fit those schemes, though, which is also another thing why I’m glad I went to Tampa because I wanted to be in the 4-3. I don’t want to be in the 3-4, so, I mean, it’s a good thing, it all worked out.”– Charlie Campbell and Bob LeVine contributed to this story
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