After selecting just one defensive player – middle linebacker Kwon Alexander – in the last two drafts, the Buccaneers were destined to have a defensive-laden draft class in 2016. Tampa Bay selected cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III with its first-round pick and came back and picked defensive end Noah Spence in the second round. But there is one offensive draft pick that has Bucs fans buzzing and that’s former Northwestern “Superback” Danny Vitale.
Part tight end, part H-back, part fullback, Vitale will play multiple roles in Tampa Bay. His muscular build, and blue-collar work ethic and Chicago background are reminiscent of legendary Bucs Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott, who happens to be a native of Joliet, Illinois and a role model for Vitale. Although a sixth-round pick, Vitale is a near lock to make the roster as he has already endeared himself to Tampa Bay’s personnel department and coaching staff after a very successful offseason catching the football in the team’s OTAs and mini-camp. He’s a big-play receiver from the slot, the backfield or the tight end position that has already developed a rapport with quarterback Jameis Winston and a player that could develop into a fan favorite with some success on the field as a rookie. With multiple entries over the next four weeks, Vitale will be sharing his training camp story exclusively with PewterReport.com readers in his Bucs Camp Diary. Follow along as Vitale navigates his way through his first NFL training camp, adjusts to the heat and humidity and establishes himself as a weapon in Dirk Koetter’s offense. IT FELT AWESOME TO HIT SOMEONE OTHER THAN MY OWN TEAMMATES By Danny Vitale as told to Mark Cook Leading up to my first NFL game (against the Eagles last Thursday night) I’ve never been one to get nervous, if I know what I’m supposed to do. I’m going to go out there and do it, and that’s always been my mindset. I’ve never gotten butterflies. I’ve never gotten nervous so I just went out there and did what I knew I can do. Leading up to it that plane ride – I love going on away trips – I don’t know if I’m the only one who’s loves that but I love the trips. The new hotels, the new cities, that’s always a lot of fun for me. So it was really cool for us to experience being in an NFL stadium like that.
Before the game I listen to music. I’m actually kind of a old school guy. So I love to listen to classic rock music and my favorite song of all time is “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I’ve got to go with stuff like that. Eagles fans are known for being tough on opposing teams, but I think that’s something thats going to happen everywhere. You have those super (tough) fans, and Philly is notorious for that, but that’s something I think is pretty cool. It’s pretty cool having that type of camaraderie among your fans. Whether its good or bad, if there all doing the same thing its pretty cool. That was definitely something special to experience having the fans raining down. I finally got to see my first NFL game action at the end of the first quarter. I got to run down on the kickoff, and then as soon as that second quarter started. That’s when I was going a bunch of plays right away. So the second and third quarter, I played a bunch, then that fourth quarter I played a lot of special teams. We actually got grades from our coaches. I did pretty well, I blocked well but should have made one more play. There was one throw I should of caught and I took a bad angle on my flat route it makes it a hard throw for the QB. So that’s all on me. I got to to the sideline, talked to Coach (Jon Embree), ran it again later, and that’s actually the catch I had. I tried to stay up, but I have to make a better play. But that was my first NFL reception, so of course it was pretty cool. It felt really awesome to finally hit someone other than my own teammates. Getting to get after some different guys, and you don’t know what kind of style they are going to play with or know what there going to throw at you. I thought it awesome. It was a lot of fun. I got to lay some on some guys as a fullback, and ran some pretty good routes, too. So it was a lot of fun to face some different guys. Next week we travel to Jacksonville for two days of practices and then the game Saturday night. I just want to go out there and compete every single day. We are going to be going against some different guys then we have been just like I said earlier. I’m just looking forward to that I would say more then anything. Especially this team, they have some fast linebackers with Myles Jack and Telvin Smith. Some fast linebackers, so its a different style of play. I’m excited to learn how to perform against some guys like that. My confidence is really high, especially after that first game. After that first kickoff I felt great running down. Like I said before I wouldn’t say the speed or physicality is any different then college, it’s just guys being in the right position. So if I know what I’m supposed to do, and I’m in position, I’m going to win every time. I feel like I can do this, and my confidence is pretty high right now. I just have to keep coming out here performing and stay healthy. The next edition of Danny Vitale’s Bucs Training Camp Diary will be later this week after practicing with the Jaguars. Please follow him on Twitter at @RealDannyVitale. Be sure visit PewterReport.com multiple times throughout the day during training camp for new stories and updates from practice live from One Buccaneer Place, and follow us on Twitter at @PewterReport. Read other exclusive Vitale Bucs Training Camp Diary entries on PewterReport.com right here: First Installment – Vitale Bucs Training Camp Diary: “I Want To Be A Pro Bowl Fullback” Second Installment – Vitale Bucs Training Camp Diary: “Going In Pads Is When It Gets Ramped Up” Vitale’s Bucs Training Camp Diary: “I Have A Cut On My Nose, My Neck’s All Beat Up”