FAB 2. Vea Kills Them With Kindness

Don’t let the big smile and soft-spoken voice fool you.

New Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea isn’t the big teddy bear he appeared to be at his press conference.

In fact, he’s quite a monster on the football field.

Keep in mind that the massive 6-foot-4, 347-pound Vea was named the PAC-12 Defensive Lineman of the year after he recorded 43 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and four passes defensed. Opposing NFL coaches and offensive coordinators will soon call him a “game-wrecker.”

Bucs DT Vita Vea - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But you wouldn’t know it watching his press conference where he was downright shy at times, grinning during the whole thing.

“He’s very humble – super humble,” said Vea’s long-time girlfriend Alexus Atchley, a former Washington basketball player, who attended his initial press conference at One Buccaneer Place. “He doesn’t like to talk about himself. During this whole process he’s just like, ‘Look at my film.’ He doesn’t want to sit there and talk about himself.

“He’s like the most loving guy, I think you get that feeling from his interviews. He’s super-relaxed and outgoing. He gets a little nervous up front, but he likes to have fun like he said, and go with the flow. It’s that Polynesian vibe.”

Much of Vea’s off-field persona has been shaped by his Polynesian culture in which the men are raised to be polite and respectful. Off the field, some of the greatest Polynesian players like former San Diego Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau and former Pittsburgh Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu were often reserved and low key, but on the field they were absolute warriors.

Vea, whose game resembles that of former first-round defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, another Polynesian great, is the same way. Yet early on at Washington, the gentle giant was being too gentle in practice and the coaches needed to see him play with more nastiness. After the draft I placed a call to Huskies defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who I used to cover when he was the Tampa Bay defensive backs under both Jon Gruden and Raheem Morris, for another interview about Vea now that he was a Buccaneer.

“I think it was more in practice going against your own teammates of just always playing with an edge,” Lake told me. “I think in practice, a couple years ago, he didn’t. This last year he really turned it on. He got his skills where they needed to be. Obviously it got him drafted really high.

“I think the more he matures the more he gets better at this thing. Once game day gets there for sure, he is going to be hard to deal with for the National Football League. He plays with an edge, but it was more just trying to get him at that wreak-havoc level that he could always play at. When he did turn it on he completely ruined every single play our offense tried to practice.”

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The greatness of Hall of Fame Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp spoiled Tampa Bay fans that have longed for his type of dominance and attitude for nearly two decades. Gerald McCoy, one of the greatest Buccaneers of all-time and a six-time Pro Bowler, has come under fire from some about being too nice on the field and criticized by some for helping opponents up after plays and smiling and shaking hands with them after losses.

But McCoy’s gentlemanly ways are no different than Tampa Bay’s other Hall of Fame defensive lineman Lee Roy Selmon, who also showed great sportsmanship during and after games. I see nothing wrong with this approach and McCoy shouldn’t be criticized for being somebody that he’s not. He’s not Sapp and never will be.

Vea isn’t like Sapp, either, and that may have disappointed some fans that watched his initial press conference. Vea was all smiles and downright bashful at times.

In fact, he’s very similar to McCoy personality-wise in that Vea is nice, friendly and likes to joke around. Time will tell if he can have the type of successful career that McCoy has had in Tampa Bay over the past eight years.

Yet Bucs general manager Jason Licht has zero concerns about Vea’s fun-loving, easygoing personality off the field. What attracted him to Vea is the brute force that the Huskies’ mammoth tackle plays with.

“He definitely is not soft once he lines up,” Licht said. “One of the things we talked about during his visit was one of the main reasons he fell in love with football. When he started playing football he said, ‘Wait, this is legal? I get to beat up people? This is fun!’

“Football is his passion. He takes advantage of his size and his strength. It’s pretty rare – the combination that he has and the athleticism. So he has a lot of fun beating the crap out of the guy in front of him. For the fans … I wouldn’t expect to see a nice guy once he puts the pads on.

Bucs DT Vita Vea - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Getty Images

“Is Vita a people pleaser? Yes, he is. But he wants to please people by dominating on the field and being an enforcer.”

Vea admits that it took a while for him to play with the down-in and down-out tenacity that the coaches wanted to see at Washington.

“I think it was me more trying to find that consistent edge going out there and figuring out the game, and the pace of the game,” Vea said. “It was something new for me to adapt to. Then once I got it all down it became easier for me and actually became fun as well.“

Lake said that Vea was concerned about hurting his teammates during practice, which is why he didn’t go full bore at first, but once he got down the practice etiquette he began to dominate during the week and on Saturdays.

“The type of guy he is, there is a part of him that probably doesn’t want to roll his own teammates,” Lake said. “How the pros have to practice now they always have to stay on their feet so he will fit right in with all of that. At the NFL level you aren’t really going to see that in practice because he is always going to be taking care of his teammates playing at that level. He’s not trying to disrupt everything. But now he knows that when it’s time to go live they’re going you’re going to see the real Vita Vea and the reason why he was picked in the first round.”

Atchley has seen Vea play with more of edge each season, but loves the fact that he can flip the switch and revert back to being kind, humble and loving off the field.

“I think he’s learned how to do it well because the last couple of seasons when he’s in the game he’s there to do his job,” Atchley said. “I think that’s the best thing. Having him be that good on the field, but come off and be the sweetest guy ever – what more could you ask for? I think that’s one of the best attributes he has.”

Alexus Atchley and Bucs DT Vita Vea - Photo from Instagram
Alexus Atchley and Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo from Instagram

During his sit-down with the local media last week, Vea was asked if he ever engages in any trash talk with opponents. He smiled and said he didn’t.

In fact, Vea kills them with kindness.

“I try to talk to them (offensive line), say a few words here and there – nothing like trash talk. I’m just having fun out there,” Vea said. “If they say something to me then I will respond back. If they ask me a question, like, ‘Why aren’t you wearing gloves?’ I’ll try and respond and make up a funny response on the spot – something like that.”

Vea likes to joke around with his opponents, who probably feel toyed with as they find that trying to stop the hulkish defensive tackle is not exactly fun and games.

“I think the guys he goes up against are more worried about his power and sheer size than anything Vita is saying to them,” Lake said. “His hands, his strike,  his get-off and how massive this human being is – there are going to be a lot of interior lineman that are nervous when Vita Vea lines up in front of them. They won’t be thinking about talking.”

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

21 COMMENTS

  1. Great work on the Fab 5, Scott… and yes, Mark, Trev and the crew do a great job keeping all of us “football geniuses” well informed throughout the year and I certainly appreciate it. I think that the talent level is not longer the question. It’s there. The questions that I have now are… Is Koetter the coach to take this team to the next level and is Smitty’s scheme going to work now that we have the talent in place? Oh, on a side note; I’m noticing that the PR website is freezing as I scroll to the bottom of the pages?

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    • e, I can give you a possible reason why that is happening. My internet security has blocked 143 data collection attempts via this website after being on it for 25 min. This site and one of my e-mail accounts get the most blocked data information attempts. We all know about tracking so I’ll leave that up to you…

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      • Thanks for the update, DBuc! I’m not super savvy on the inner workings of websites… Is it from PR or outside sources?

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  2. I am looking forward to see this Defense Line this year.

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  3. First, gotta give credit to Pewter Report for the great scoops leading up to the draft. I feel like PR readers are more informed than 99% of all other fans because of the great work you guys do. So many hits across the mock drafts and Best Bets. Kudos.

    That said, that was quite the puff piece for Vea. I have all the hope that he succeeds, but forgive me for being skeptical that a guy who had 3.5 sacks his senior year at college can be a viable NFL pass rusher. If he cant, then this is a blown pick. His career will always be compared to Derwin James’s for me. Only time will tell if Licht made the correct pick.

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    • This tells you who the educated fans are versus the uneducated fans. If you think Vea getting 3.5 sacks is going to decide whether this is a blown pick or not, you really need to take up a different sport as a hobby. Because that’s so far from the reason they drafted him it’s not even funny. There’s so much more that goes into it. If the Bucs didn’t have McCoy, yeah I’d agree that maybe 12 is a little too high for Vea. But his job is not to get sacks. His job is to completely shut down the run and demand double teams so that McCoy( who’s never in his life seen a one on one), and JPP, can can get freed up to get to the QB. It’s as simple as that. His job as a freak athlete of his size is to stop the run, get push up the middle, and let McCoy and JPP wreak havoc. Just by the teams DLine roster alone, it was the perfect pick. Anyone that knows anything about football knows this was a brilliant pick. Who made that Ravens Defense so good for years? It wasn’t Suggs, and it certainly wasn’t Reed, it was Ngata. His presence freed the rest of the DLine up. Anyone that says the Bucs should have drafted James is delusional

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      • Hey, Dave. Go fuck yourself!

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      • Seriously, what an insufferable prick you must be

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  4. I am really, really, hoping that Benenoch can beat out Sweezy at RG. Sick and tired of this dude being on the roster.

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    • I believe with Benenochs athleticism he should be able to unseat Sweezy. He has very good movement for a guy his size and he should excel in our zone scheme. Hopefully this 3rd year is the year he finally puts it all together.

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  5. Great job PR Staff! FAB 5 and Cover 3 are AWESOME!!

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  6. Great draft coverage guys! I razzed ya about the James and no trade back predictions only because I didnt agree. You guys got me turned onto Cappa and Watson well before the draft. And others like Nathan Shepherd who Ive become a big fan of. I thought Licht had a great draft. Ive been calling for him to trade back more and luckily it worked out perfectly this year. Go Bucs

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  7. Licht and Co should be applauded for acquiring the draft picks they did given what the team started started the draft with. If you rate a DT and a SS the same, you take the DT every time. NFL games aren’t won by the teams with the best safety play but largely on who can control the line, as the 5-11 Bucs can attest to.

    Unfortunately the decision to sign DeSean Jackson to the 11mil/yr deal ended up costing the team a 3rd round compensatory pick as it offset much of the 16 mil that Mike Glennon received from the Bears. At the time the draft hadn’t occurred and receiver was a weakness, but with Evans, Brate, Howard, Humphreys and Godwin, Jackson ended doing more harm in costing the team a high compensatory pick, cap room that could have rolled over and blocking playing time for Godwin than any good it did.

    One of the most overrated things I’ve ever heard is when a GM crows about the value they received in the draft relative to their board. In 2016 Licht proclaimed that VHIII, Spence and Aguayo were all 1st round graded players on their board. At the time Scott crowed about the Bucs acquiring that much perceived talent. The problem is, they have to play football first before you hand the GM and scouts any awards. It’s like choosing to go to a restaurant that you rate really highly only to get food poisoning. Just because you thought it would be good doesn’t mean that it won’t end up going through you in a hurry. The hope is they’ve learned something and can keep some of the momentum from last years draft going.

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  8. Good Fab 5 Scott; you did a good job defending the pitch Licht gave as to that line of draft logic. I still say we are short 1 or 2 DE’s for our pass rush. I didn’t see the need for a DT when DE was still a priority, but I understand the logic behind it. When we traded down to 12th spot, I was hoping we were going to trade down again as I still saw the need for DE.
    My other comment is about Swizzy and his health issues; might be time to bite the bullet and move on and use the savings to sign Smith & Alexander. I got it Jackson, Humphries, Conte, Gholston, Fitzpatrick cap space will be used to sign Winston to a new contract.

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  9. Enjoyed the article Scott. It always amazes me how wrong I’ve been over the years when trying to construct my war room and plan my strategy for the draft. I aways find out after the fact that what I am thinking and what the Buc’s are thinking couldn’t be farther apart. The problem is I get most of my analysis from outside sources like ESPN, NFL.com, DRAFTEK, etc. Hence when one of your mocks come out i don’t recognize half the selection you project. Since the draft however I have researched the picks and now I see why we would take a Vea over a Fitzpatrick or why If Nelson was not available we would not drop to James if Vea was still on board. I had no idea we have been Following this kid for 2 years. For most of us fans it’s smoke and mirrors, but every year I dive back in and every year I walk away scratching my mead. One side bar if I may, what is the physical condition of Tu’ikolovatu? Can you imagine a goal line stand with Vea and him crowding the middle?

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  10. Another site quoted Licht as saying Cappa would start out playing right tackle, who’s right? I think his body type, long, and leaner then most guards would make him a better tackle prospect. It’s great to have position versatility if you’re drafting a player to be a back up along the line but, I believe if you need to find a starting right tackle, draft a player who’s been there done that well at a high level during his college career. Nobody was clamoring over Q. Nelson for his ability to play any position on the line. I also don’t know why Licht likes to get to cute drafting players from small schools, I think he got lucky with Marpet who should be a pro bowl R.G. by now instead of moving to a new spot every year. I watch alot of SEC games so it’s hard for me to believe there wasn’t a better option then Cappa.

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  11. Really enjoyed the inside scoop about Jason Licht’s Draft process Scott. That’s why we come to this site. I learned a long time ago that what the “experts” say isn’t necessarily what the teams think and certainly not gospel. Looking forward to Training Camp and getting Pinkstob’s take.

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  12. Great article! Its really nice to hear that Licht was just as pissed about the Dline as much of the fans were. He saw what we saw and did a great job revamping the trenches.

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  13. Excluding the RB and Guard, my board lined up with the Bucs board. Chubb, Vea, James. I would have been happy with any of them at 7 but Im overjoyed about getting Vea at 12 along with the two additional 2nd round picks.

    When we are contending for a Superbowl in a few years we will look back at this draft as the reason for our success. Vea is going to make the entire front 7 better.

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  14. Excellent article! A+

    This is the kind of info I want to see you guys at PR produce from time to time.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Go Bucs!!!!!

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  15. Scott, A+ specifically for Fab 1 that is.

    Is Trevor PR’s equivalent of Rob McCartney or Jon Spytek? Is Mark your guy like Mike Greenberg?

    Don’t answer that. 🙂
    ________________
    Go Bucs!!!!

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