SEFFNER — A group of Bucs rookies spent Tuesday morning at Lopez Elementary School to celebrate the school earning a $10,000 "Fuel Up to Play 60" hometown grant, and several were still relishing milestones from Sunday’s loss at Green Bay.
"My first goal was to make the team, and I wanted to play in a game and after that, it was to make my first catch. I did it Sunday, and that was pretty cool," said rookie TE Antony Auclair, who got his first NFL reception on an 11-yard pass from Jameis Winston (right) on the game’s second play.
Auclair has been on the 53-man roster all season, but has only been active for four games. The Bucs released veteran Luke Stocker last week, and Auclair said the chance to learn on the field has helped his development immensely.
"I’m getting more confident as the weeks go by," he said. "To get playing time in an actual game is completely different from just practicing all the time. I think the confidence part is soaring with me right now. I have to improve on a lot of things, but I’m just trying to get better."
Another rookie, former FSU WR Bobo Wilson, made his NFL debut Sunday, getting a 4-yard run on his first NFL touch. He spent the first 12 weeks of the season on the Bucs’ practice squad, but was grateful for the promotion to the active roster and the chance to play for the first time.
"First game at Lambeau Field, truly a blessing," Wilson said. "It just felt good being out there. I had to get my rhythm back. In pregame warmups, I was kind of off, first game back. Just being out there with Jameis (Winston), Mike (Evans), D-Jack (DeSean Jackson), it felt like practice once I got my groove."
Wilson said three months on the practice squad helped him progress to be ready to contribute at the NFL level, and he’s excited for the next month.
"The little things, the details Coach focuses on, I’ve been trying to get that in my repertoire," Wilson said.
S Justin Evans has played extensively, with nine starts now, 58 tackles and a team-best three interceptions, including one on Sunday.
"I still have so much more to work on," Evans said. "I make the big plays, but there are other plays I need to be more detailed on. It helps me a ton — when the season first started, you’re not getting reps, so you’re not getting a feel for the game. Each and every play, you’re learning something."
The Bucs rookies put Lopez students through football drills outside and came with a surprise gift for the holidays — 250 students got a free pair of Nike sneakers to take home to help encourage regular outdoor exercise as part of the "Play 60" campaign.
"This is a good time -- we get to enjoy seeing the kids laugh and have fun with the guys," rookie TE O.J. Howard (left) said.
Howard said he hasn’t felt any kind of rookie wall, but then again, he played in 15 games last season in helping Alabama to the national title game. He said he was nervous Sunday about whether the Crimson Tide would make it in this year’s playoff, but now he’s excited to see what Alabama can do.
"I knew if Ohio State beat Wisconsin, we’d probably get in," he said. "But then you start hearing other people’s side of it, so I was nervous. We had a game, so I didn’t know until after. It doesn’t matter what seed you go in, as long as you’re in. The four seed, Ohio State, beat us in 2014."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.