Scanning the Bucs’ locker room on Monday and trying to identify new tight end Alan Cross was pretty simple.
Despite not having a name plate above his locker, the red-headed, bearded, pale rookie stood out like a sore thumb in a room full of mostly chiseled athletes.
The west Memphis drawl could be heard in a distance, and with a voice and resemblance to actor John C. Reilly’s character from the movie Talladega Nights (see video at end of story), it was clear how Cross had earned the nickname ‘Honcho’ from receivers coach Todd Monken.
“Coach Monken one day said, ‘Hey you look like you’d be a Mike Honcho.’ I said, ‘What?’ but it stuck, so I don’t know,” Cross said on Monday in open locker. “But I’ve done had so many nicknames here. (Russell) Shepard calls me ‘South Memphis.’ I’m called ‘Snap Back,’ ‘Criss Cross.’ A lot of different names.”
Wide receiver Mike Evans laughed when asked about the nickname bestowed upon Cross, but said he appreciates what he brings to the Bucs offense.
“Aw man, I just called him that because our receivers coach calls him that,” Evans said. “I call him Alan. But if he likes ‘Honcho,’ we can call him ‘Honcho.’ He is a guy the team likes, gets the team fired up and is a funny guy. But he is a guy who got an opportunity and made the most of it. He is a good, smart player.”
Improbable is a word that could be used to describe Cross’ journey to the NFL. From a walk-on long snapper at Memphis, to ending his career as the Tigers’ all-time leader in touchdowns from a tight end, and now to NFL rookie, Cross said he never envisioned the path would lead to professional football.
“No, not at all,” Cross said. “My goal was to make some money, do the best I can as I could then go back home and get a normal job. When I started here my new goal was to make the practice squad. And then it kept going and kept going. It was tough. I am not going to lie. I called my girl all the time, telling her I was ready to come home. But she told me to just keep pushing and at least wait it out until cuts. And then I walk in here and they say this is the 53-man roster team and I was like, ‘What?’ It’s crazy.”
Cross, who finished his college career with 90 catches for 1,050 career yards and 14 touchdowns, at first struggled to say what his strengths are that the Buccaneers must have liked to keep him on the 53-man roster.
“To be honest I really don’t know. At Memphis, Coach Fuente – I know I am not the biggest guy or the fastest – but Coach put it in perspective: why I am decent at what I do is that is I am instinctive,” Cross said. “That’s not coachable. You either have it or you don’t. And I guess that is what I bring to the table. Just understanding the plays and where the ball is supposed to go and who to hit.”
Veteran tight end Luke Stocker didn’t struggled when asked why Cross, who beat out sixth-round pick Danny Vitale for a reserve fullback-tight end role, is a member of the Buccaneers.
“He is one of the guys who may not have ideal body side, or body weight or ideal speed, but he is just a good football player,” Stocker said. “He has a good head on his shoulders. He understands the game, the scheme and concepts. He put himself in a good position and throughout camp his opportunities grew and grew and he continued to make the most of it and play well.”
At times on Monday, Cross seemed just as surprised as many fans to be standing in the locker room being interviewed as game week preparation for the Falcons was getting underway.
“Vincent Jackson called me ‘Honcho’ the other day,” Cross said. “I grew up watching that man. This man just called me ‘Honcho.’ And Mike Evans called me it. And Jameis Winston gave me a ride to the hotel the other day. Oh my heavens.
“And I remember when Austin Seferian-Jenkins came out, I think this is his third year, I was still in college and he was one of the top tight ends. And I used to think, ‘Man, I wish I was like him.’ And now my locker is two down from here. Luke Stocker, Brandon Myers, Cam Brate all guys I am going to just try and learn from.”
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
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