Bucs rookie linebacker Grant Stuard was the final pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. That makes him “Mr. Irrelevant” as players drafted in that spot are affectionately known.
But in order for Stuard to be relevant enough to make the 53-man roster he’ll must star on special teams. And that’s exactly what he plans to do during his rookie season.
“I feel like I have the opportunity to be dominant in that area of the game,” Stuard said. “It’s about the match-up. It’s very tough to match up with me with 30 yards of space between because if you are a DB or a receiver I’m stronger than you. If you are a linebacker or a tight end I’m going to be faster than you.
Bucs ILB Grant Stuard – Photo by: USA Today
“I kind of look at my match-up and feel the match up and attack them any which way I need to. I feel like I’m unblockable in that area of the game. So I’m trying to be one of the best players in the league year one in that area of football.”
Stuard, who starred on special teams at the University of Houston and at the Senior Bowl, and the Bucs’ 2021 draft class wasted no time getting to work on special teams in Friday’s first rookie mini-camp practice.
“Special teams – we were working at all the positions. Trying to see at the next level where guys fit best. So I was playing all the punt positions, but on defense I’m predominantly playing Mo’ linebacker (Moneybacker) in this defense. It doesn’t really ask a whole lot of me. It just has me do what I’m used to doing – just be myself out there. I really like the position.”
The Bucs have had several dominant special teams players in recent years including cornerbacks Josh Robinson and Ryan Smith, running back Dare Ogunbowale, defensive lineman Pat O’Connor and inside linebacker Kevin Minter, who was last year’s special teams captain. Stuard will likely be battling veteran newcomer Joe Jones, who was a special teams ace in Denver, along with fellow Bucs draft pick, linebacker K.J. Britt, for the final inside linebacker on the depth chart – assuming the team keeps its usual four linebackers.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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