After drafting offense exclusively on the first day of the 2006 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally addressed the defense with their first selection on the second day. With the 122nd overall pick, the Bucs made Penn State cornerback Alan Zemaitis the team’s fourth-round draft selection.
Zemaitis was pleased to be drafted, especially by the Buccaneers, a team he followed closely while playing at Penn State.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Zemaitis. “As a guy in high school, I always loved the Bucs defense. I always made a point of watching them. Playing a scheme that’s similar to the Bucs, we try to copy, actually, what the Bucs do on defense year-by-year. I know it is a beautiful thing, and I am going to have some fun out there.”
Zemaitis studied the Bucs defense, particularly cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly, closely.
“Oh, I didn’t watch them a little bit, I watched them all the time,” said Zemaitis.. The only NFL hat I have, is a Buccaneers hat. My cousin was like, ‘Why don’t you wear that tomorrow?’ I was like, ‘I don’t even know if I am going to go there.’ So I left it at home. But I am about to wear it all day today, though.”
The 6-foot-1, 194-pounder is a physical, playmaking cornerback who thrives in zone coverage and will be an excellent fit in the Tampa 2 scheme. As a senior, he led the Nittany Lions with six interceptions and 10 pass breakups and two fumble recoveries for 51 yards for a pair of touchdowns.
He is a physical defender against the run and forced two fumbles while logging 51 tackles last year. He was slowed by injuries as a junior and recorded only two picks, but he did post a career-high 71 tackles and 18 pass-breakups as a sophomore in 2003. He also returned four interceptions 207 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown.
Zemaitis, who possesses great leadership ability, ran his 40-yard dash time in the 4.6s during his pro day, which caused his draft stock to slip from the third round to the fourth round. However, Zemaitis has been timed in the 4.5s. The thing that he lacks is the fluid hips that may prevent him from turning and running with faster wide receivers.
Zemaitis nearly lost his life on Jan. 20, 2003 after he fell asleep at the wheel on a return trip to campus. He lost control of his car and flipped it twice. Zemaitis was scalped in two places and sustained a concussion and fractured sinus bone after being ejected through the windshield of the vehicle.
To the surprise of many, Zeimaitis made a full recovery in time to play in the 2003 regular season. He notched 71 tackles, 18 passes defensed and four interceptions while sporting a special helmet to protect the head injuries he sustained in the car accident.
“I value a lot of things in a different way,” Zemaitis said of his accident. “Every little thing and everything happens for a reason. Today is one of the best days of my life. By going through the accident and knowing that I’m a fighter, knowing that any adversity that comes my way, I know I can handle it. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of adversity at this next level, but me going through what I’ve gone through is just going to give me that mental edge that I need to this level to become successful.”
Tampa Bay has always done well in drafting cornerbacks in the middle rounds. Donnie Abraham, Ronde Barber and Dwight Smith were all drafted in the third round. Because Zemaitis slipped to the fourth round, Tampa Bay is getting a real steal.
“Yeah,” Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said when asked if the Bucs got a steal by drafting Zemaitis in the fourth round. “We were talking, Jon [Gruden] was talking, and if we went offense in the first round, that we had Alan penciled in with the 27th pick of the second round if he was there at corner. Now, all of the sudden he’s there in the fourth round. That happens every year. I don’t buy if [a player] drops, I go by ‘what do you see?’ We like this player. We really like him and I don’t care if it’s the seventh round or the first round, we like the guy and we took him.”
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com