Tiquan Underwood is an NFL survivor, having been released eight times over his five seasons, including by the Bucs in this year's final preseason cuts. He rejoined the team Oct. 2 and has started six games, the highlight being an 85-yard touchdown catch at Detroit. He sat down with the Times' Greg Auman to talk about his Christmas, the lessons he has learned through his transactions and an exciting month ahead.
It's wild to think the last time the Bucs played the Saints (Week 2), you weren't on this team. And there are quite a few guys in this locker room who can say that. I'd think that makes you all the more appreciative of having a place on this roster.
It definitely changes your outlook once you're released and you're not in the league, not on a team. It makes you appreciate it more. It's only natural to get comfortable, to take things for granted. But after going through that, it makes you just fight for it every day, to come to work, do your job, try to put your best foot forward.
What is the Christmas gift you were most proud to give this year?
I got my fiance a picture frame that says "I LOVE MOMMY." We're about to have a baby Jan. 24; baby girl. That was a cool little gift to give her.
Have you talked to any other new dads in the locker room?
Bobby (Rainey) just had (a baby). Leonard (Johnson) is having one in the next few weeks. I speak to a lot of the dads on the team.
Baby arrives in January. You ready for it?
I'm excited about it. I don't know that I'll ever be ready for it, but I'm excited about the challenge. I'm definitely looking forward to being a dad.
Did you get any gifts from teammates this Christmas or give any?
We did a secret Santa throughout the receiver group and coach John Garrett. We picked names out of a hat. I picked Eric Page. He's a very fashionable guy. He likes (fashion brand) Louis Vuitton. I got him a nice gift from Louis Vuitton. Coach Garrett, he picked my name. He got me a nice Bose (electronics) set, a wireless set that can play music from your phone wirelessly through the speakers. It was cool.
Word association: I'll drop a name, you say whatever comes to mind. I'll start with your fellow receivers: Vincent Jackson?
Just a professional on and off the field.
I would go with smart and hard-working. Cares about his craft.
Tough coach, smart guy. Smart, intelligent. Not everybody can play for him, but those who can appreciate it.
I can't kick back with you without asking about the hair. You're known for the hi-top fade. How long have you had it?
Going on my third year. My second year in Jacksonville is when it started. It was like a joke between me and my friends. In this profession, your appearance, you can do what you want. I'm not in an office. I don't wear a suit. While I'm young, I can play with my hair a little bit. It's taken off from there.
What were the most motivating moments you had in those early years before you got to the Bucs last year?
Getting released for the first time as a rookie by Jacksonville. They put me on the practice squad for two games, then I got brought up to active. Going from cut to practice squad to active, going through that process early on, it really opens your eyes. It teaches you that it's a business. It's not a scholarship anymore. It makes you appreciate it. And playing for an organization like New England and a coach like Bill Belichick, that changed everything for me. Seeing how those guys operate, how they work, that really saved my career. Going there, learning football, learning to be a pro, when I got the chance to come here, I just ran with it and took that New England approach.
It says a lot about your maturity that the Patriots are a team that cut you the night before a Super Bowl appearance and you don't hold any grudges. You appreciate the time you had there.
Man, the thing I love about Belichick is whether it's Week 1, Week 10, playoffs or Super Bowl, he's always going to adjust the roster to win that game. People notice mine because it was the Super Bowl, but he does that every Friday or Saturday. He was always honest and up front with me, and as a player, you appreciate that. I still got my AFC championship ring. It was a great experience, to experience the playoffs, the week of the Super Bowl. I wish every player here could go through that. It was amazing.