The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dipped into their own back yard with the selection of Florida safety Ahmad Black in the fifth round. Black was taken with the 151st overall pick. The Gators standout fell in the draft to concerns about his size and speed. At 5-foot-9, 184-pounds Black ran the 40-yard dash at 4.76 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. That slow time combined with being undersized hurt Black’s draft stock despite fabulous production for the Gators.

“It’s been crazy,” Black said. “I grew up a Buccaneers fan and I think I came out of the womb as a Bucs fan. My aunt cheered for the Bucs for about three years.

“It is a blessing. A lot of people asked me where I wanted to go and I tell them that Tampa was always my favorite team. I wouldn’t say I just want Tampa and that’s it because there was always a chance I’d go somewhere else, its’ great. I like the Florida whether of course. I’m ready for a joy ride.”

During his years at Florida, Black was a ballhawk. He concluded his college career as a three-year starter playing in 48 games and compiling 13 interceptions for 362 yards returned with three touchdowns. He also had one fumble recovery, three forced fumbles, one blocked kick, two sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, 15 passes broken up and 244 tackles. As a senior, Black totaled five interceptions returned for 171 yards and one touchdown. Black also registered 108 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, one sacks, five passes broken up, and three forced fumbles. The team captain Black led the Gators in tackles in 2010.

“Practice, practice, practice, on tackling and everything. We tackle all the time. When people asked of me how I got so good at tackling and what I do different is we practice it a lot,” Black said. “I take what I learn in practice and bring it to the game. I’m everywhere the ball is. I just like to be out there where the action is. The first couple of times if I feel like they are going to run the ball I want to be up there. On third and long if we feel like they are going to pass the ball I want to be back there. I just want to be around the ball. Some plays I’d start in the box and end up back deep on a pass play. It really doesn’t matter.”

In the National Championship victory for Florida over Oklahoma at the end of the 2008 season, Black recorded a jaw-dropping interception of Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford. The interception was a critical play in Florida’s victory.

Black ended his collegiate career as the Outback Bowl MVP in Raymond James Stadium. He had two interceptions that were returned for 129 yards and a touchdown. He also chipped in six tackles with a tackle for a loss. To add do the day, Black was playing at his favorite team’s home.

“It was a great way to close my career and coach [Urban] Meyer’s coaching career,” Black said. “We were really excited to go out and play for coach Meyer the last four years and to go out that way was really strong, being able to finish. I had a lot of fun playing in that stadium. It was the first time I ever played in that stadium.”

Black is a die-hard Tampa Bay fan that watches the Buccaneers every Sunday. Growing up in Lakeland, Florida Black idolized the Bucs defense during their golden years that included a Super Bowl championship. Black is a high-character player that is passionate about the Buccaneers. His aunt Sabrina Collins, was a cheerleader for the Bucs and stays involved with the Bucs cheerleaders. As a kid Black’s favorite player was Mike Alstott.

“It’s been crazy,” Black said. “I grew up a Buccaneers fan and I think I came out of the womb as a Bucs fan. My aunt cheered for the Bucs for about three years.

“Growing up I always used to be at the functions and the team picnics and things like that. I’ve met Sapp, Lynch, and Brooks, and I saw Warrick [Dunn] a year ago at a football camp that both of us worked at. Just being around those guys [was great]. I’ve always wanted to maybe play for Tampa. Those guys befriended me when I was little and made me like the team even more. I go to a couple of games every year, maybe one or two, but it’s kind of hard because I play my own season.” 

With Black added to the roster, the Buccaneers could have two potential playmaking safeties for years to come in the last two drafts with late-round picks in Black and second-year pro Cody Grimm. Both enter the NFL as underestimated prospects because of physical stature, but both have the reputation being pure football players. Veteran starter Sean Jones will return in 2011, but he is in the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay. The other safeties that could battle to make the team would be Corey Lynch and Larry Asante. Black could figure to compete at free safety or strong safety.

“Like I said I’m a football player, so where ever the coach needs me to play that’s where I’m going to play at,” said Black. “At the end of the day it is about just getting to the ball. If I’m starting out by the line, I’m just going to the ball.”

Veteran Tanard Jackson is eligible to be activated after Week 2 of the season. Jackson was suspended for 14 games of the 2010 season and also served a four-game suspension to start the 2009 season. The Bucs would have to have Jackson inactive on game days for a few weeks, as he would be just getting accustomed to practicing again and learning the playbook. Jackson is in the last year of his contract with the team if he is reinstated by the NFL.

Black will enter training camp to battle on the depth chart with Jones, Grimm, Lynch, and Asante.

~ Andrew Scavelli contributed to this report.

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