TAMPA — In the spring of his junior year at Miami Central High, Kevin Pamphile had a scholarship offer to play basketball at Stetson, but the new football coach would not leave him alone.
"The kid was 6-5, 240, long, rangy arms. I told him if he gave me a year, he'd have more scholarships than he could shake a stick at," said Telly Lockette, now the running backs coach at USF. "I explained to him: 'I'm not trying to downplay basketball, but you're in a football state.' "
Pamphile went out for football, played defensive end and got 12 sacks, earning those scholarship offers Lockette promised and choosing in 2009 to play at Purdue. He redshirted, continued to add weight, switched to offensive line midway through his third year of college and on Saturday, the Bucs traded up to take him in the fifth round, landing a 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive tackle.
"It feels amazing," said Pamphile, 23, excited to return to his home state after five seasons in West Lafayette, Ind., far from his family. "I'm happy to be close to home, not too far for my family to come see me. I'm excited."
Lockett said he still talks to players about Pamphile and the growth he has made, going in mere months from an absolute football novice to a player talented enough to land a Big Ten scholarship.
"He played a little D-end, ran around and didn't know what he was doing. Raw," he said. "Everybody said, 'Oh, he's a project.' I said, 'You can't go wrong with a guy who's 6-5, 240 pounds coming out of high school.' He was so dang long. Scouts would come out and say, 'Where did you get him from?' I used to always tell him if he puts as much energy into football as he had into basketball, he'll be successful."
The Bucs have shown a penchant for converted basketball players — first-round receiver Mike Evans and second-round tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, both 6-5, have backgrounds on the hardwood as well.
The Bucs still need a starting guard, and Pamphile is strong enough to play there, but he'll get an initial look as a swing tackle, backing up two solid starters in left tackle Anthony Collins and right tackle Demar Dotson. The Bucs brought Pamphile in for a visit and he impressed offensive line coach George Warhop, who now could have five new linemen among the eight he'll keep in the fall.
"He's a developmental player with a big upside," said general manager Jason Licht, who gave up a seventh-round pick and a 2015 fifth-rounder to get Pamphile. "He's tall, athletic, tough, strong. We brought him in for a visit, and he's really sharp. Those are the kinds of guys we want to take a risk on."
Lockett said Pamphile is a smart player with a great attention to detail, things he'll need as he makes another major leap, this to a promising future in the NFL.
"He's a good kid, a great kid. He's a kid that made it," Lockett said. "I'm not surprised."