New Bucs LB Cassanova McKinzy reunited with Jameis Winston
When news came out Saturday night that Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy would be signing with the Bucs as an undrafted rookie free agent, one of the first congratulatory texts was from an old rival from college and even high school in Alabama: Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.
"We've been trying to get on the same team, but that never happened," McKinzy said of the chance to play with his old rival. "We competed a lot in high school, and we became real good friends, kept up with each other,"
McKinzy and Winston faced off in high school, when the linebacker starred at Birmingham's Woodlawn High and Winston was at Hueytown High, and then at the end of the 2013 college football season, Auburn and FSU squared off in Pasadena -- Winston threw for two touchdowns and won a national championship, but McKinzy had a team-high nine tackles in the loss, including sharing in a sack of Winston.
"He got the best of me," McKinzy said of their previous meetings. "I'm not going down there to make any friends though. I'm going down to take care of my business and impress the coaches."
McKinzy said he chose the Bucs because he wanted to stay in the Southeast, but also because Bucs coaches pitched him on how few established linebackers they have on roster -- after starters Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Daryl Smith, the surest backup would be sixth-round linebacker Devante Bond, with at least one more position open on the final roster.
"They had everybody contact me, stressing the issue of them having the least amount of linebackers, having a great opportunity to come in and actually play ball and play on special teams," said McKinzy, who worked out this spring with linebackers coach Mark Duffner.
McKinzy played all three linebacker spots at Auburn, but said his best fit is probably strongside, which suits his frame (6-1, 248) and his versatile skill set.
"I'm a pretty hard fit for an offense to figure out because you can use me a lot of different ways," he said. "I can rush the passer, set the edge, drop in the flat. I feel like the thing I do well is fill in the gaps in run support and set the edge of the defense."