One of the most compelling aspects of Bucs training camp each is that the team brings 90 players to One Buccaneer Place and only 53 end up making the final roster. Nearly half of the players that report to Tampa Bay in August will be gone by early September when the final roster cuts come.

Second-year Bucs defensive end T.J. Fatinikun doesn’t have the luxury that three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy does. He’s not guaranteed a roster spot. He has to earn it in four short weeks. Fatinikun is living life on the roster bubble along with nearly 40 other men chasing their NFL dreams.

After coming to Tampa Bay after playing an entire season in the Arena Football League last year, Fatinikun notched nine tackles and shared a sack with McCoy at Washington. He’ll have to battle the likes of current starters Jacquies Smith and George Johnson and a host of reserves, including Larry English, Will Gholston, Lawrence Sidbury, Da’Quan Bowers, in addition to rookies Ryan Delaire and Jamal Young.

At 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, Fatinikun is not only considered undersized, but an underdog in training camp. With multiple entries over the next four weeks, Fatinikun will be sharing his training camp story exclusively with readers in his Training Camp Diary. Follow along as Fatinikun lives life on the bubble and works to earn a roster spot and remain a Tampa Bay Buccaneer in 2015.

By T.J. Fatinikun as told to Scott Reynolds

Hello, Bucs fans! I’m T.J. Fatinikun, a second-year defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Thank you for reading my Training Camp Diary on and following on my journey into the 2015 season. I want to start off by telling you a little about myself, my plans for the season, and what you can expect from the Bucs defense.

I was born in Nigeria and I came to the United States when I was nine years old and it was snowing. That’s what I remember most. I spoke English at the time, but not fluently. I did speak fluent Yoruba, which was my native language.

My last name, Fatinikun (pronounced Fat-in-i-kun), means “full of joy” in Yoruba. I moved to Philadelphia and it was freezing cold and snowing, which was a big shock for me coming from Nigeria. I started playing football when I was nine back in 2001 and have loved it ever since.

I’m just like all the other players – I’m excited for training camp. I’m very excited to get back with the guys. We all talked at the mini-camp about how we are all starting clean – we’re starting fresh. We understand how much talent we have and how we can get better as a team.

Bucs DE TJ Fatinikun - Photo by Getty Images

Bucs DE TJ Fatinikun – Photo by Getty Images

I want to be the best player I can be and be the best teammate I can be. My first goal is to make the roster. That’s my goal every year. It’s so engrained in my mind, but at the same time, I can’t let it weigh me down. If you’re not cracking the 53-man roster it doesn’t matter, though, so it all starts there.

I want to make the roster and record at least a good eight sacks. And I really want to be a demon on special teams. I want to make impact plays and change the game in that manner on special teams. I want to be that special teams demon, and on defense I really want eight or more sacks.

I get so excited talking about it because I love the game, but I don’t want to talk too proudly. I just believe in what I can do and I know I have a special trait inside of me that I feel will be seen this year.

I’ve worked hard. I’ve trained hard, and I really want to make that jump this year. I want to go 100 miles an hour in camp and be trusted by every one of my teammates.

The emphasis is on takeaways this year defensively. We have to take the ball away. We need to be ballhawks and eliminate our missed opportunities. The biggest thing is to take the ball away, improve our effort and our hustle to the football – and most importantly – score on defense whenever we can.
We need to take the ball away from the other team and put our offense in the best position possible. Takeaways, effort and scoring on defense. We brought in guys that will familiar with our defensive system this offseason and that will complement what we already have going. Those guys have great experience in this system and there is a lot of energy is in the air.

There have been some players on the defensive side that have caught my eye this offseason. Danny Lansanah keeps doing what he’s doing. Danny is doing great and I love his attitude towards his work, and his underdog mentality that he has. That’s his story and I love the way he goes about his profession. I think he had a pick almost every day this offseason. It’s exciting having Danny around. He’s always around the ball.

D.J. Swearinger is another guy that has impressed me. He’s our new safety, always flying around the ball. He brings a lot of energy. I’m a high-energy guy so I’m down with D.J. and I love how he finishes around the football.

Gerald McCoy is the leader of the Bucs defense – Photo by: Getty Images

DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR

Upfront, the guy that has been impressive is Gerald McCoy. Gerald comes in there to make us all better – not just himself. I have the utmost respect for Gerald. I rave about Gerald to everyone. We’re in the same room every day and I see him go to work. When Coach Frazier talks in our defensive meetings, Gerald is writing down everything word for word. He soaks in every single thing and then gets out on the practice field early and he takes a lot of the younger guys with him.

He has so much class. I thank God for Gerald and I ask him a lot of questions. He’ll tell you exactly how it is and I appreciate that. He wants us all to get better, and as a front we will be better because of Gerald.

Gerald hasn’t made the playoffs yet since he’s been in Tampa, and he’s been around a long time. I know that bites him. I know he’s itching to get this camp started like everyone else. I can’t wait to get started and make this roster and flourish. I can’t wait to win games for this city and get this city poppin’!

My message to you Buccaneers fans is that we’re all in this together. Let’s buy in together. I understand all of the things we’ve been through in the past, but believe that this is a new team with new energy.

Believe in us winning games. Believe in the players that we have. I’m a very positive guy and I believe that we will come out there and give it our all every single day – from the G.M. and the coaching staff on down to the players.

We will win football games for this city and things will start looking up for the Bucs. Hop on board … and Siege The Day!

Buccaneers fans can follow T.J. Fatinikun on Twitter at @TFat96

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for 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:
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5 years ago

I’m pulling for you T.J.Hoping you make the team! Show them what you got and stay healthy and We will see you on the field these season.

5 years ago

I think he has paid his duties.Iam pulling for him also Go Bucs and the Improve Defense.And I think the defensive line will make the other team offense pay the price.I believe 4 games will be won by the defense.Go Team

5 years ago

Love your attitude T.J. Hope you not only make the team but develop into a major contributor. Every organization needs people with your enthusiasm and desire to improve.
The defensive needs your ability to get the quarterback. Have a great year we are pulling for you.

5 years ago

T.J., thank you for doing the diary for us to read. I look forward to hearing your point of view on training camp. I will pray fro you and root for you to make the team.

5 years ago

I pull for all the players on the team so I’m hoping TJ makes the team. I am no talent evaluator, but honestly, TJ looks like a 2 down run-stopping strong side LB to me. I could be wrong!

Reply to  macabee
5 years ago

Tampa 2 is about slicing and dicing the run.