When Vincent Frank Testaverde was selected No. 1 overall in the 1987 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many fans and media members alike felt the franchise’s dreadful fortunes were soon to turn around.
After six seasons under center for Tampa Bay, Testaverde wasn’t re-signed but he still went on to play another 15 seasons in the NFL, and while never living up to his draft status, Testaverde still holds a number of NFL records, including being the oldest quarterback to win a game (44), and still hold the Bucs’ record for most career passing yards (14,820).
On Friday, another Testaverde was seen taking snaps wearing an orange quarterback jersey for the Buccaneers, but this one didn’t have a wisp of gray in his hair or stood anywhere near 6-foot-5.
Vincent Frank Testaverde, Jr. is part of a handful of players participating in this weekend’s rookie mini-camp, hoping to latch on somewhere in the NFL. The younger Testaverde understands the comparisons are inevitable.
“Something you just have to deal with and can’t focus on outside sources telling you aren’t going to be as good as him,” Testaverde, Jr. said. “You have to drain it all out and can’t listen to it and just go out there and … I am going to just play my own game. I’m not going to try and play exactly like my Dad played because I am a different person than he is, a different player.”
Testaverde, Jr. grew up in the Tampa Bay Area and played his high school football less than a mile from Raymond James Stadium for Jesuit High School before stops at Texas Tech, Miami and Albany. It’s a dream come true for a kid who grew up cheering for the team in red and pewter.
“I think it is pretty cool being the home town team, a local Tampa guy,” Testaverde, Jr. said. “It is definitely pretty cool growing up and watching the Bucs and all my friends watching the Bucs and now I get the opportunity to maybe play for them and put on a Bucs helmet. That is cool for me. It is a pretty cool opportunity.”
Testaverde, Jr. knows it will be an uphill climb to make the roster, or even the practice squad, but is doing all he can to impress the coaches.
“I just need to show the coaches I can retain a bunch of information in a short amount of time,” Testaverde, Jr. said. “They only give us one or two nights before to prepare and bring it out on the field.”
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said that Testaverde’s quarterbacking ability – not his last name – impressed him during the team’s local pre-draft workout in April.
“He came in early for the workout with the local guys and he was impressive throwing the football, and he had a solid day today,” Arians said. “He’s another guy that, this is a big weekend for him, especially [Saturday]. Being able to protect the ball a little bit better, and some of them weren’t the quarterback’s fault, today guys were running all over the place. He showed enough to get to this point.”
Testaverde, Jr. like most of the prior quarterbacks in Tampa Bay, often become the scapegoat for a franchise mired in ineptitude. The elder Testaverde gave his son some advice heading into this weekend.
“He shared with me that I might get criticized because of the way he performed,” Testaverde, Jr. said. “When he was here, they (the Bucs) weren’t that good. He didn’t play like a Pro Bowler when he was here so I will probably get a little bit of criticism for that. But I cant really focus on that. That was 32 years ago. This is now, this is my opportunity. Now is my time to ply. His days are over. He is definitely helping me out but I am just focusing on myself.
When Arians was asked what he remembers about Vinny Testaverde’s career, he said, “I remember when he got the Heisman over my running back at Temple.”
Temple running back Paul Palmer finished second in Heisman Trophy voting in 1986 and had 346 attempts for 1,866 yards (5.4 avg.) and 15 touchdowns.
Standing in the warm May Florida sun after his first walk-through on Friday, Testaverde, Jr. was asked what name he preferred to be called.
“Vince or Vincent,” Testaverde, Jr. said. “Just not Vinny. That’s Dad.”