TAMPA — The door flew open to the interview room at One Buc Place last week and there stood Mark Dominik, playfully muttering the draft day cliche he has heard since joining the club as a pro scouting assistant 14 years ago.
"Take the best available player that makes the most sense for the Bucs," he repeated over and over.
If you know anything about the Bucs' 37-year-old general manager, he is well-rehearsed for the job.
Dominik is like one of those child soap stars who grew up before your eyes on the set and wound up becoming an A-list actor on the grandest stage.
He arrived as a wide-eyed 23-year-old with one year of experience as a scout for the Chiefs in the summer of 1995, not long after the Bucs had their biggest first-day haul by drafting Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.
As fate would have it, one of his first decisions after being named general manager in January was to release Brooks, the 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker and likely first-ballot Hall of Famer.
In between, he has sponged knowledge from some of the most successful personnel evaluators in the league: Jerry Angelo, Tim Ruskell, Ruston Webster and former Bucs general managers Rich McKay and Bruce Allen.
Having also survived his share of power struggles and purges, emerging without a hair out of place, it is Dominik's turn to build the Bucs. So what will it be? Production over potential? Rock, paper, scissors?
"I think it's a fluid answer because I don't think you have to go out and hit the grand slam home run," he said. "That's something that Jerry Angelo always talked about and the same thing with Tim Ruskell. Doubles and triples are good, too.
"But at the same point, when you see an opportunity to grab a guy and take a chance on a guy with rare physical talents, it's hard to bypass that if you've done the research; someone that may have more potential than production. We just don't want strikeouts."
The longevity of his career tells you Dominik is a consensus builder, an amalgam of the men he has worked under. From Angelo, he learned preparation. From McKay, communication. From Ruskell, organization. From Allen, inclusion of the coaching staff.
The lessons came early. In Dominik's first draft in Tampa Bay, the Bucs were prepared to take Texas A&M running back Leeland McElroy with the fifth pick of the second round (35th overall). But the Cardinals took him at No. 32.
"There was pure panic in the room when Leeland went,'' Dominik said.
''Jerry was saying, 'Let's take Mike Alstott.' He was prepared."
Dominik has worked almost exclusively in the pro personnel department, so evaluating college players is not his expertise. But he knows a player when he sees one. He's credited with bringing in, among others, Antonio Bryant, Clifton Smith, Shelton Quarles and Donald Penn.
His involvement on draft day, mostly, has been analyzing trades. So his approach as general manager is to communicate with coaches early, making them responsible for evaluating their positions. Then he keeps the communication lines open with coach Raheem Morris and college scouting director Dennis Hickey, who will be in the draft room.
"Whereas Jon (Gruden) got everybody involved, which was good, Rich had Tony (Dungy) meet with his coaches and Rich would meet with personnel,'' Dominik said.
''We're trying to do a blend of both; X amount of time with the coaching staff and X amount of time with the scouts and trying to build that together."
When the Bucs are on the clock next weekend, it will be Dominik deciding which name goes on the card handed to the commissioner.
What will he be feeling?
"It's an emotional, adrenaline-filled few days," he said. "But I'm very confident in the work our scouts have done; very happy with our level of involvement from our coaches.
"I would say I'm just really looking forward to it because it's an opportunity to establish the identity of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in terms of the draft preparation, draft meetings and how we do things."