The Bucs liked Illinois defensive tackle Akeem Spence enough that they traded up to draft him early in the fourth round this spring. He hasn't disappointed, starting the season opener and getting his first sack in last week's loss at New England. Born in Jamaica and raised in Fort Walton Beach, he talked with the Times' Greg Auman about his ridiculous strength, love of shoes and pride in getting his first sack against Patriots star Tom Brady.
You wore 94 at Illinois, and Adrian Clayborn had that here. But it can't be a coincidence that a defensive lineman from Illinois chose to wear 97 for the Bucs.
My agent called me and told me what numbers were available. I remembered Simeon (Rice). He was a Buc great, and he went to Illinois. So I said, "Let me get that number." I'm going to do the best I can.
You tweeted (@akeemspence) a few weeks back with genuine worry about the legendary rookie dinner, picking up the check for the veterans. How much did that set you back?
It wasn't bad. We had four rookies. Going in, hearing numbers guys had spent, I was kind of scared. "I hope they don't get crazy." Luckily, we went a few days before we had a game, so they couldn't get too crazy. It was just dinner; Charlie's Steakhouse. It didn't really set me back; between the four of us, between nine and 10 grand.
Your biceps are huge. You bench-pressed 225 pounds at the NFL combine 37 times — one short of the most for this class. Proud of that number?
I was kind of down on my number. I had done more before the combine. The most I hit was 42, training. Nothing wrong with 37, but I thought I was going to kill that.
Michael Pittman used to be the biceps king here. His were 19.5 inches. You're a bigger guy, but do you know your number?
I want to say 22. With my suits, when they measure my biceps, they're always changing the measurement.
Who's the next-strongest guy, if you're the guy to beat?
The closest guy to me is Carl (Nicks).
Your father was a bricklayer, taught you a lot about hard work. Did you have any tough jobs before you got to college?
No, my dad never wanted me to work. But there were times he'd take me out there, out in that sun. I was like, "I don't know how you do it. I'm not coming back out here." I'd work for a few hours and be done. Those guys are out there from 6 o'clock to 6 in the evening.
You and William Gholston (Michigan State) add to the Big Ten presence in this locker room. Any talk from the SEC guys?
Those SEC guys, they think the SEC is everything, which it's not. It's a good conference, but the next best thing is the Big Ten. Sometimes, we have our off years, but I represent the Big Ten all the way.
Favorite Big Ten stadium you went to?
I loved Penn State. My favorite game was when we played them in the snow game, a full-out blizzard, snowed the whole time. It was fun.
You looked at USF in the recruiting process before you chose Illinois, right?
I did look at South Florida with Coach (Jim) Leavitt. I came down there, liked it a little bit. Going up there with (Illinois coach Ron) Zook, seeing snow, just wanting to get out of Florida, that was big for me. I wanted to get away. I've been living in Florida so long.
Anything you spoiled yourself with from your rookie signing bonus?
I'm a big shoe guy. When it comes to Jordans, any type of shoes, I've got to have it. It's a must. That's my only thing. I like my Jordans. They're called 11s, the Breds, black and red. I wear a 131/2. Not crazy big like Dot's (Demar Dotson) Size 18 feet.
Do you get back to Jamaica at all?
I haven't been back in a long time. I go over to London to see my mom. I have an older sister over there and a younger brother. I go every chance I get.
A little word association. First word that pops into your head. Gerald McCoy?
Mike … I have no words for him. Mike's just odd to me. He's odd. Odd.
Did you stop to appreciate Sunday that your first NFL sack came against a legend like Tom Brady?
That was big. That's a future Hall of Famer. That's why it was so big for me to get Brady on the ground one time. You don't know how long he's going to be playing. I didn't have time, didn't even celebrate, had to run off the field because we went to different personnel. After, I was like, "Dang! I just sacked Tom Brady." Gerald was telling me he hasn't sacked Tom Brady yet, so it's a major accomplishment. I beat Gerald to something.
Position: Defensive tackle
Age: 21 (born Nov. 29, 1991)
Hometown: Spanish Town, Jamaica (moved to Fort Walton Beach when he was 6)
Acquired: Fourth-round pick (100th overall) in 2013