On Sunday afternoon Tampa Bay recognized Lavonte David as one of the best linebackers in the game, and paid him accordingly, even if many around the NFL are still learning how good he is.
David’s new deal is a five-year, $50.25 contract with $25.56 million guaranteed. David is entering the final year of his rookie deal after being a second-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft and was slated to make $1.14 million in 2015.
Despite failing to make a Pro Bowl during his first three seasons in the league, the former Nebraska standout has put up better numbers than that of legendary Buc and Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks.
Through three seasons the Miami native has logged 430 tackles, 10 sacks, six interceptions, six forced fumbles, four pass breakups and a safety.
On Monday the organization held a press conference to announce the signing and below is the full transcript.
Jason Licht “Good afternoon everybody. Thanks for coming. It’s an understatement to say, but it’s a big, big day for us here, from ownership on down. I don’t know who’s more excited, the building, or Lavonte. I can tell you, if he’s as excited as we are then he’s doing a good job of playing poker here. There’s several reasons why we’re excited about extending Lavonte, but first and foremost, he’s a phenomenal player, elite Will linebacker – elite linebacker – but he’s a professional. One of the most professional players I’ve been around. He and (defensive tackle) Gerald McCoy epitomize what professionalism is in the NFL.
Just to give you a quick story before I turn it over to him: yesterday, when we came close to doing the deal, Lavonte needed to sign off on it. So, his agent, Ron Butler – who’s here – wanted Lavonte to get on the phone, so we pulled him out of meetings. Lavonte came up, accepted the deal, we did our bro-hugs, all that stuff and we asked him if he could stay for a couple of minutes and take a few pictures. He said ‘Well, you know, I really need to get back down to meetings.’ We don’t want to get into details of contracts, but he had several million reasons why he could have stayed up there and taken a load off. So, without further ado, here’s Lavonte.”
Lavonte David “First and foremost, all glory to God. I’m thankful for being in this moment. Secondly, obviously I want to think the Glazer family for giving me this opportunity to play at a wonderful organization. I want to thank Jason Licht, (Director of Football Administration) Mike Greenberg, Coach Lovie Smith, my teammates, my coaches and obviously my family for all supporting me through this whole process from Day One. I’m excited man, I’m excited. It happened just in time, getting ready for the football season, it made me even more excited to just get back working, put this all behind me and get back on the field, start back practicing tomorrow. It’s just a blessing.”
(On Lovie Smith challenging Lavonte to be a top-tier playmaker)
LD: “That’s just the expectation that he has for all of his players, especially a guy like me, who has some big shoes to fill. Obviously, I’ve done it before, so he thinks I can do it again and I believe I can do it again. Now it’s up to me to get out there and just perform at my highest level week-in and week-out and just try to keep making this organization very happy and just keep doing what I’m supposed to do on the football field.”
Photo by: PewterReport.com
(On how he stays motivated to keep playing at a high level after getting the contract extension) LD: “It’s the love that I have for the game. I put football first, over everything. Football is something that I always dreamed of doing, since I was a little kid, when I first got started. I just try to focus on playing football and let all that other stuff come behind it, as far as this – the contract thing – the accolades that come on behind it. Football is the main thing that keeps me going and having the opportunity to come and be around a great organization every day, that’s what really keeps me going.
(On how important it is that he and Gerald McCoy will be part of the same defense for the foreseeable future) LD: “I think it’s very important. When me and Gerald first set out, we wanted to solidify this defense at being at the top every year and all this does is just motivate you even more, you know? When you get rewarded for doing something you love to do, all it does is just add an even bigger motivation. So that’s just how I look at it.”
(On when he gained confidence that he could perform at a high level in the NFL) LD: “I want to say midway through my first season. Not even midway through the first season, before the first game. Before I even walked on the field, I had to wear a green dot (that signified that he was the player with the radio in his helmet). The day before the game, the coaches told me that I had to wear the green dot on my helmet and I had to call the plays. As a rookie, that’s a lot of pressure. Then the very first game, I handled it really well. I looked at that as like, I have a big goal I have to reach and accomplish. Having all the older guys look up to me, come up to me for advice, things like that – I think it really hit on the head when you have a coach have that much confidence in you coming in, playing your first professional football game and calling the defense.”
(On how important it is for him to help make Tampa Bay a winning team) LD: “(It’s) very important. Not just for me, just for my teammates. We all have that competitive nature that we want to win. If you walk around the locker room, you can see it in guys. You can see it out at practice, guys want to be the best that they can be. We want to bring a winning mindset back to this organization. We have the guys to do it. We have the coaches to help us. Hopefully it happens very soon, but the sky is the limit for us, the way things have been looking.”
(On if he thinks his legacy will be defined by winning games) LD: “Yes, of course. Winning is the main thing. You get known for winning. Obviously, if you’re winning, people will look at the things that you’ve done, so that’s what we want to do here. We have the right coaches in place. We have the right management in place. We’re all looking forward to it. I honestly believe that it’s going to happen real soon.”
(On if Coach Smith considers himself ‘blessed’ to have inherited Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy when taking over the franchise) Lovie Smith: “That’s a good way of describing it, being blessed, and that is truly the case. We talked about what Gerald brings to the table, but Lavonte can do it all. As I mentioned, I talked about five interceptions (this coming season), but it’s the ’55 Club’ – five interceptions, five sacks every year for a great linebacker. Lavonte – we will keep raising that standard for him. You see his ability on the football field. As he talked about making the calls his first game as a rookie, he’s as smart of a football player as you’ll be around. He’s been in this system a little over a year and he’s almost like a coach already, knowing exactly what we should call in every situation. The sky really is the limit for him. We’re just looking forward to doing some more things with him this year, more than we’ve done at that position in the past.”
(On what it means to be one of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL) LD: “Like I said, all it does is add a bigger motivation. I never let stuff like that take away the love that I have for the game. Like I said, when you get rewarded for doing something that you love, all it does is add a bigger factor to the way you play the game now. All I can do is just keep going out there, keep proving everybody wrong, keep showing everybody – keep showing the organization – that I’m the player that they drafted a couple of years ago. It’s humbling, but all it does is just drive me to keep doing what I do.”
(On getting the extension and how it impacted him based off of his upbringing and where he came from) LD: “It’s amazing. Obviously, I have my big supporters right there (my family), who I do it for. Coming from where we come from, not a lot of people get these opportunities. Now that I have the opportunity, hopefully I can set the foundation and be the goal that kids in my community want to reach. Last month, I just went back and did a give-back to the kids in my community for the first time. Hopefully they could look at this like “Ok, Lavonte David did it, why can I not?” Hopefully this could be the stepping stool to getting kids to where they want to be.”
(On how David wants to be remembered when the public looks back at his career) LD: “Lavonte David was a humble football player, first and foremost, he was a hard-working football player, he always played for the name on the front of his jersey and he always played for his teammates. That’s the main thing with me. I’m a team-oriented guy, if you guys don’t know me by now. Team always comes first. All those guys in that locker room, I have a very (good) relationship with. I could name every guy from top to bottom. These are the guys who I have to go out there for, go out there and work with to reach the ultimate goal, so I have to have a bond with them. I just want, whenever somebody brings up my name to a former teammate or whatever, that he’ll say, ‘He’s still a great friend.’ A lot of guys who aren’t even on this team anymore, I still have a relationship with, because that’s just the guy I am. Every time I step out there on the field, I want them to say that he gave it his all.”
(On David’s family and the roles they played in helping him to this point) LD: “They were there every step of the way. They got me started in little league football when I was six years old, watching my older brothers play, watching my cousins play. Through everything – all the bad, all the good – they were right there. They always had my back. They were always in my corner, they never shied away from anything, even with me not qualifying out of high school and having to go to junior college. My mom actually pushed me to go to junior college because she thought it would be a great thing for me to get away from home. And I thought it was the best I ever made, going to a rural area in Fort Scott, Kansas, where I was the only guy there, where I don’t know a soul out there. It was real humbling. I think that whole process helped me become the guy I am today, because in high school we were winning a lot and I felt like everything was handed to me. Having to go to junior college, I realized that you have to work for everything that you earn. Going through that whole process, Coach Jeff Sims, Coach Eddie Brown, those guys, I think they turned my whole life around. I think they really helped me become the guy I am today. Through that whole thing, my family stuck with me, even through the times that I wanted to quit. You know, I wanted to quit when I was up there because it was a struggle, man. It was a struggle. But I just called those guys, talked to them each one by one and they told me to stick through it. They were there. Even when I went to Nebraska, they were there. They didn’t make a lot of football games, but when they could they made some. All I ask for now is just that they continue to stay by my side. They provided for me all those years and now I can provide for them.”
(On where David wants to improve his game) LD: “Obviously, just being more of a playmaker that I know I can be. Making positive impacts on the field, whether it’s causing more turnovers, getting our offense back the football as much as I can. Being a better leader, being a better vocal leader. Making sure guys are doing what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it. Just having respect for the game; going out there having fun like I’ve been doing. Just, man, it’s all about football. I don’t know, I just love the game. Scoring, I need a couple touchdowns this year, too. Coach (Lovie Smith) made an emphasis on that already and they’re getting on me real hard about that. I’m not going to tell y’all what’s been happening in practice, but they’ve been getting on me real hard about that.”
(On what David plans to do given his new contract) LD: “For my mom, obviously, I want to get her a new home to live in. Provide for my family, my brothers and sisters. My dad, get him that toolshed he’s always wanted. Help provide for my nephews – I have five nephews – they’re getting into football now, (so) help provide for them. Make a big impact in my community, that’s the main thing. The bookbag giveaway was a start, but I want to try to make it a whole weekend where I can help impact kids’ lives. Like, do the bookbag giveaway, keep that going, do a football camp and then on Sunday just have a fun day for all the kids who come out and just have a chance to meet other atheles who I’m good friends with. Keep that going to help impact their lives, because, like I said, in the community that I grew up in, kids are getting in trouble at a very young age and that’s something that we shouldn’t allow. Now that I have that foundation, I have that stool to go out there and speak. Hopefully I can impact them.”
(On how the recent extensions of Gerald McCoy and David set the tone for other players in the organization) JL: “Well, I think I’ve said it, but if you want examples, there are no two better than Gerald and Lavonte. It’s Lavonte’s day. Lavonte, he’s just special. And it’s our philosophy here to draft well, which I think we’ve done. Luckily, Lavonte was part of a draft here that was one of the best draft choices in the history of this franchise, and we’re going to reward those and reinvest into our draft picks. That’s the best way to build a championship team, which we’re doing.”
(On what Smith sees when looking at David on tape) LS: “I think everything you’re looking for in a great linebacker. Of course, the standard is high here. We have a Hall of Famer (Derrick Brooks) that sat and watched video with me yesterday of practice and we critiqued Lavonte. And Lavonte realizes who played the position before him and he’s looking forward to that challenge. It’s early in the game, but what we’re looking for, Lavonte can do it all. We want a linebacker that can blitz when we want to blitz, he can blitz as well as anyone. No better coverage linebacker than Lavonte and his tackle total has been pretty steady throughout. But, yeah, we’re challenging Lavonte to make more impact plays. The great players around here, though, what they ultimately did is they won a championship for us. And that’s what we’re going to talk to Lavonte about. As he said, being that leader that he’s always been, but getting everyone to come on board where he is.”
Photo by: PewterReport.com
(On whether showing up for training camp rather than holding out was based upon confidence that his extension would be worked out) LD: “Of course I had the confidence that it would get done, because we have guys like Jason (Licht) at the helm. You have to put all your confidence in them that we’re going to work things out. There was no doubt that I wasn’t going to miss training camp. I love football. There’s no way I’d miss it. And then, after that, I felt like if I did (hold out), I would lose the respect of the guys. Those guys count on me. They voted me as a captain and how would that look if their captain wasn’t there working as hard as them. So there was no doubt that I was going to show up to training camp, because, you know, I still have a bitter taste in my mouth from last year. When we have an opportunity to get back out there and work toward the next season, it was a no-brainer that I’d be there.”
(On signing players to a second contract) JL: “It’s Lovie and myself and we talk to ownership, which we talk to them often. That’s always the theme: reinvest in our own, develop our own and build our core players through the draft. Lavonte is, like I said, the epitome of that. He’s just so special in many ways. I know I gave one story about that (from) yesterday, but, last year, when he was dinged up and missed a little time, he was having a hard time at practice just sitting. Lovie came over to me and said, ‘Did you realize that Lavonte has never missed a practice in his football career?’ And that’s the type of guy that he is. He doesn’t want to let anybody down. We need more Lavontes, but they’re hard to find.”
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, the beach and family time.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 email@example.com