After selecting just one defensive player – middle linebacker Kwon Alexander – in the last two drafts, the Buccaneers were destined to have a defensive-laden draft class in 2016. Tampa Bay selected cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III with its first-round pick and came back and picked defensive end Noah Spence in the second round. But there is one offensive draft pick that has Bucs fans buzzing and that’s former Northwestern “Superback” Danny Vitale.
Bucs Superback Dan Vitale – Photo courtesy of Northwestern
Part tight end, part H-back, part fullback, Vitale will play multiple roles in Tampa Bay. His muscular build, and blue-collar work ethic and Chicago background are reminiscent of legendary Bucs Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott, who happens to be a native of Joliet, Illinois and a role model for Vitale.
Although a sixth-round pick, Vitale is a near lock to make the roster as he has already endeared himself to Tampa Bay’s personnel department and coaching staff after a very successful offseason catching the football in the team’s OTAs and mini-camp. He’s a big-play receiver from the slot, the backfield or the tight end position that has already developed a rapport with quarterback Jameis Winston and a player that could develop into a fan favorite with some success on the field as a rookie.
With multiple entries over the next four weeks, Vitale will be sharing his training camp story exclusively with PewterReport.com readers in his Bucs Camp Diary. Follow along as Vitale navigates his way through his first NFL training camp, adjusts to the heat and humidity and establishes himself as a weapon in Dirk Koetter’s offense.
I HAVE A CUT ON MY NOSE, MY NECK’S ALL BEAT UP
By Danny Vitale as told to Mark Cook
Having the former Bucs players out here on Saturday shows there’ s a lot of tradition here. It might not be the newest NFL team, but the guys in the past have done so much to get us to this level we at now. It’s cool to look back at guys we talked about like Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber and John Lynch – all those guys.
It’s really cool to look back at those guys to see what they have really done to move this organization forward in terms of being a contender in the NFL, which is unbelievable. That’s something I looked up to as a young guy. I hope to achieve what these guys did back in the day, and win a Super Bowl.
Those players helped pave the way for us. My grandpa always says they wore the leather helmets and all that you got were broken noses back in the day. So as a fullback now I understand that. Helmets sliding down, busting up your nose. I have this bruise already, you can see it. I have a cut on my nose, my neck’s all beat up, so it takes a different mindset to play football. I think that’s something special people in the past had – that drive and that toughness, in every aspect of life, not just football. Having that hard-nose style, that’s what made football special.
Working as more of a traditional fullback, it’s definitely a challenge – not in terms of the contact things. It’s more like I have to be a running back. I have got to be able to read the hole just like he does. It’s a challenge from that aspect, but I think it’s getting easier every single day. The last two days I felt really good about my fits at the line. I’m just going to keep improving and learn from Luke Stocker, who’s great at that. So I’m just going to keep learning from him and asking him questions.
It think some of the defensive guys don’t expect a guy who’s 6-foot-2, 240 pounds to be running 4.5’s, especially on the outside. So I ran a play today (Saturday), I ran a fade route and ended up getting pretty open. So I just turned around – I don’t know who it was defending me – and just gave him the “Woooo!”
So I think they are starting to realize that now. The quarterbacks now realize that I can run and they can throw me open.
Bucs FB-TE Danny Vitale – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Things have started to slow down for me. Even compared to those OTAs. This is the fourth time through these installs, so from a detail standpoint, it’s starting to slow down which is good. Coaches are really focusing on one or two things to get better at because we understand most of the detail at this point, so that’s a huge help. It allows you to go out there and play fast and react, rather than going out there and thinking too much. That’s a huge help.
There are a lot of unheralded players on this roster. I think (linebacker) Jeremiah George is great special teams player. He’s a guy like me who’s going to have to be on every single special team. He’s making me better every single day, which is awesome to see because he’s pushing me so hard. He goes so hard in special teams. He has great technique, which is forcing me to be on my game every single day. He’s a guy I notice every single day pretty much from a energy standpoint as well.
Also (tight ends-fullbacks) Kivon Cartwright and Alan Cross as well. Two really constant guys that just want to learn as much as they can every single day. We kind of help each other out there as the younger tight ends. So that helps. It is a lot of fun, and an awesome experience and I’m just trying to enjoy it with everyone.
With us playing our first game on Thursday, you know it’s going to be amped up. It’s going to be guys there that have families to take care of and they don’t want to lose their jobs. So that’s something you’ve got to keep in mind when you’re across from another guy and you’re trying to take away his job while you are trying to earn yours. So that’s something I’m looking forward to – just that high level of competition.
The next edition of Danny Vitale’s Bucs Training Camp Diary will be later this week after the first full week of training camp. Please follow him on Twitter at @RealDannyVitale.
Be sure visit PewterReport.com multiple times throughout the day during training camp for new stories and updates from practice live from One Buccaneer Place, and follow us on Twitter at @PewterReport.
Read other exclusive Vitale Bucs Training Camp Diary entries on PewterReport.com right here:
First Installment – Vitale Bucs Training Camp Diary: “I Want To Be A Pro Bowl Fullback”
Second Installment – Vitale Bucs Training Camp Diary: “Going In Pads Is When It Gets Ramped Up”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t think they’ll be making much contact today in Trop field today.
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