Rookie safety and Lakeland native Ahmad Black, who grew up a Buccaneers fan, felt right at home in Tampa Bay after Friday morning's walk-thru practice.
Walking off the field after his first official practice in the NFL during Friday morning’s walk-thru, Buccaneers safety Ahmad Black was dripping in sweat, but still all smiles. While some other new faces may be overwhelmed by the Florida sunshine, the heat is nothing new for Black.
From youth football, to his accomplished career for the Lakeland High School Dreadnaughts, to the University of Florida where he was an All-American safety, and now the Buccaneers, Black has played his entire football career in the Sunshine State, and feels like the heat – on and off the field – is something he is prepared for.
“I have not seen too much difference; it is a little bit faster,” Black said about his first taste of life in the NFL. “Everything is just more crisp. It is more detailed, more solid. Everybody knows exactly what he is doing. I got to look at my playbook a little bit more. I am not going to play a little bit faster unless I know exactly what I am doing. The maturity level of the guys here is real different than college.”
Black, who grew up a fan of the Buccaneers, ended his Gators career with 227 tackles, 13 interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. The Polk County native was a three-year starter for the Gators and team captain, and earned two championship rings in his career in Gainesville.
Playing and excelling for a big-time college program was something that was a factor in the Buccaneers taking Black in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. While the success rate for fifth-round picks making NFL rosters isn’t very high, Black thinks that playing for a top-tier program like the University of Florida gives him a good chance to make the squad and contribute this year.
“Definitely [playing for Gators] and when I said the maturity level [is different], that doesn’t mean that you know we had all that playful guys,” Black said. “That right there is why we one of the top-notch schools, and I am not being biased. But you know what I am just saying. And I think that’s why we were so successful there. You know here it is a little bit different feeling [with regards to maturity].”
Black faces tough odds to get playing time, as the Buccaneers were pleased with their safety play last season. Cody Grimm, who earned a starting spot early in 2010 after Tanard Jackson’s suspension after Week 2, and appears to be 100 percent after suffering a broken leg against Baltimore.
Veteran Sean Jones, who is steady if not spectacular, is back, and the wild card in the equation is the possible return of Jackson, who was suspended for violation the league’s substance abuse policy and is not eligible for re-instatement until after the second game of the 2011 season.
The 5-foot-9, 184-pound Black plans to lean heavily on the veteran players for leadership, guidance, and help with technique, including his all-time favorite Buccaneers player Ronde Barber. Black’s instinctive play reminded the Tampa Bay coaching staff and scouting staff of Barber during the draft evaluation process of the Florida standout.
“I talked to some of the older guys we all get in the rooms at the same time together,” Black said. “I do not feel that uncomfortable asking questions. Ronde has been here a long time. I just go in there like any other regular meeting [and ask questions].”– Scott Reynolds contributed to this report
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