TAMPA — Erik Lorig has been plugged into a lot of spots during his brief NFL career. He was drafted by the Bucs out of Stanford as a defensive end, switched to tight end and later adapted to the role of fullback.
But on Oct. 25, Lorig found himself in another strange position: high-stepping into the end zone at the Metrodome. He wasn't prepared, slipping flat on his back and bracing his fall by grabbing the pylon.
"It was a joyous occasion," Lorig said, smiling. "There was a lot of celebration."
Lorig and his teammates had reason to savor the moment in their 36-17 win over the Vikings. It was the first touchdown of Lorig's career, coming on a first-and-goal play-action fake in which he sneaked into the left flat past safety Harrison Smith.
In addition, Lorig's blocking helped rookie Doug Martin crease the Vikings defense for 135 rushing yards on 29 carries.
"He's a good fullback, and he's athletic," tight end Dallas Clark said. "He can give that hit and make that hole that Doug needs. He's a tough, tough guy because … I don't want that job.
"Through camp and the season, he's been giving some great, great shots for Doug and opened things up for us."
Lorig was a long shot to even make an NFL roster. Having switched from tight end to defensive end at Stanford, the Bucs took him in the seventh round — No. 253 overall — in 2010.
Lorig made the practice squad. And after the Bucs started 0-4 in their first year under coach Raheem Morris, offensive coordinator Greg Olson insisted on switching him to tight end during the bye week.
"When … we saw him catch a pass on scout team that day, we said, 'You look a little too good on offense,' " defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "That's a testament to how hard he works because that's not his natural position. But he said, 'Whatever I can do for this team, I'll do. Whatever I've got to do to stay in this league, I will do.' He put in the work, and it shows."
Lorig entered the league at 265 pounds. Before the end of his rookie year, the Bucs informed him of their plans to make him a fullback. The NFL lockout slowed his growth at that position.
But last offseason, Lorig worked closely with a nutritionist and Jay Butler, the Bucs' strength and conditioning coach. Together they transformed Lorig's body, dropping his weight to 250 and reducing his body fat by 7 percent.
The difference in Lorig's role was obvious during the season opener, in which he caught four passes for 21 yards while carving holes for Martin. His eight catches this season, for 53 yards and a touchdown, are one more than his first two seasons combined.
"Erik has done a great job as a blocker, as the fullback in a lot of our run game schemes and in protections," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "And he does a lot of things that really don't get seen by the naked eye — the subtleties that he helps from a pass-protection standpoint, and then he's been catching the ball and being productive with it after the catch.
"You have that as an additional weapon. We're excited where he's at, and he's certainly been one of those players who's getting better and better and helping us."
Lorig's versatility was evident at Palos Verdes Peninsula High in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif. As a senior, he recorded 130 tackles, 91/2 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and four interceptions as well as 550 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as a tight end. His Stanford undergraduate degree in public policy and pursuit of a master's in digital media interaction are evidence of his mental acumen.
"In college, I always felt like I had the ability to play both (defense and offense)," Lorig said. "And coming out, there was a lot of mention that I would have the opportunity to play both … and some special teams. So I was prepared to do that."
Maybe next time, Lorig will be prepared to reach the end zone.
"It was part of that personal vision I had," Lorig said. "And I was happy I could score some points and help the team win."