From walk-on to NFL: Big leap for FSU's Javien Elliott
He's still a long shot to stick on the Bucs' roster this fall, but FSU's Javien Elliott can enjoy an extremely rare perspective this spring: a year ago, he had never played college football, and now he's wearing an NFL jersey.
Elliott, an undrafted rookie cornerback, joined FSU's football team as a walk-on in spring 2014, but didn't earn any playing time until last season, showing enough upside there and with a speedy showing at FSU's pro day to get a look from the Bucs.
"It's very exciting, especially coming from where I came from, the road I had to take to get here," Elliott said after an OTA practice last week. "I thank God for it. It feels great. It's a dream come true. ... I'm definitely blessed to be here."
Elliott joins two former Seminoles teammates on the Bucs roster in quarterback Jameis Winston and kicker Roberto Aguayo -- while their job security is at the other end of the spectrum, they've welcomed him with open arms, and it's helped him to have familiar faces with his new team.
"They made me feel at home, feel welcome, so I can come here and be myself," said Elliott, who wasn't signed in the initial wave of post-draft rookie signings, earning a tryout with the Steelers but no signing from that.
The Bucs have solid depth at corner, having added three this season in rookie Vernon Hargreaves and free agents Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson, with three returning from last season in Johnthan Banks, Alterraun Verner and Jude Adjei-Barimah. They may only keep five corners, so Elliott would have to show enough in training camp to beat out at least one of those and would be a more likely match for the Bucs' practice squad.
The last few spots on an offseason roster can be constantly changing from week to week, so Elliott understands the importance of making a strong first impression, just to keep his spot through two more weeks of OTA workouts and the Bucs' mandatory minicamp June 14-16.
"Just getting into my playbook, learning everything I need to learn so I can make plays," he said. "Being at Florida State, we did a lot of high-level training, so I just have to get used to learning my playbook."
A year ago, Elliott was a rising senior walk-on who hadn't played a down of college football, yet he did enough to earn a scholarship last fall and made an impact with the Seminoles, finishing with 37 tackles and an interception. He caught the eye of Bucs general manager Jason Licht at FSU's pro day, running a 40 timed as fast as 4.41 seconds. He has an uphill battle ahead, but it's nothing he hasn't pulled off before.
"It's kind of the same situation -- the tryout, making the team," Elliott said. "I'm doing the same thing now, it's just going out there and letting these coaches know that I can do the job. You stay humble, try to stand out, work hard and prepare yourself."