Wyoming QB Smith among Bucs' rookie signings
TAMPA -- So important was the process of signing undrafted rookies to the Bucs that coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht had set up their post-draft news conference for before the seventh round Saturday night, giving them time to line up calls to potential signings.
The team hasn't released an official list yet, but at least 16 undrafted players have said they're joining the Bucs -- an example of the talent still available after 256 picks is Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith, who will compete for a backup QB job this summer after accounting for 97 total touchdowns in three years with the Cowboys.
"I really wanted to get drafted. It was a really, really hard day," said Smith, who entered the draft after his junior year. "It was rough, waiting around."
Smith, 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, has a connection with Bucs QB coach Marcus Arroyo, who recruited him to Wyoming in 2011 and was his offensive coordinator for about a month before taking a job at Cal under now-Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford. The two traded text messages throughout Saturday's draft, the coach letting his old player know the Bucs were interested in the event that he wasn't drafted.
While he starred in the relative anonymity of Wyoming, Smith had some huge games this past season -- he threw for 383 yards and four touchdowns as the Cowboys nearly won at Nebraska in their opener. And in a late-season 59-56 overtime win against Hawaii, he accounted for 640 yards of total offense -- 498 passing, 142 rushing and seven passing touchdowns, while running for another score.
The Bucs will reunite him with his top receiver, Robert Herron, who was a sixth-round draft pick and training partner of Smith's this spring.
"It was pretty cool -- we had talked about this since we first got to college, so it's pretty amazing we're at the same place," said Smith, who was timed at 4.51 seconds at his pro day, 0.1 seconds faster than any quarterback at the NFL combine.
Undrafted rookies face long odds to make the final 53-man roster, but the Bucs have an interesting group -- linebacker Steven Jenkins led Texas A&M with 96 tackles last year; receiver Solomon Patton had a 100-yard kickoff return and six touchdown catches for the Gators, and Eastern Michigan safety Mykal Swaim is 6-foot-3 with a 39-inch vertical leap.
Their chance to impress starts Friday, when the Bucs open a three-day rookie minicamp, the first step toward proving themselves in training camp with the veterans in July.
"I take a lot of pride in my work ethic, and I want to show them how important this is to me, how much it means to me to be on this team, to fulfill whatever role they want me to," he said.