Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Receiver Tiquan Underwood impressing in bid to make Tampa Bay Bucs

The Bucs’ Tiquan Underwood makes a leaping catch for a 23-yard gain Friday, when he had three receptions for a game-high 76 yards.


The Bucs’ Tiquan Underwood makes a leaping catch for a 23-yard gain Friday, when he had three receptions for a game-high 76 yards.

TAMPA — Tiquan Underwood has scratched and clawed for three years, trying to achieve longevity in the NFL. But even as he continues those efforts, he does so knowing time is not on his side.

That's why Underwood — now on his third team — takes a serious tone when asked about his pursuit of a Bucs roster spot. The young receiver, 25, knows words like "potential" and "upside" barely matter in a bottom-line league where players are judged chiefly on production.

Underwood is off to a good start with his promising performance in training camp and, on Friday night, his stirring start to the preseason. Everything he has done has reflected his now-or-never approach to 2012.

"This is about to be my fourth year," said Underwood, who had a game-high 76 receiving yards on three catches in a win over the Dolphins.

"I've been through a lot as a player and as a person. I've put a lot into this. I personally feel like it's time to break through."

A 2009 seventh-round draft choice of the Jaguars, Underwood has a thin pro resume with 11 catches in three seasons. He's probably better known by casual fans for being cut by the Patriots the night before the Super Bowl and for his old-school high-top fade haircut than anything he has done on a football field.

But Bucs coach Greg Schiano, who coached Underwood at Rutgers, saw redeeming qualities and brought him aboard as a free agent in May. Schiano was clear from the outset that Underwood's fate would not be influenced by their relationship.

Underwood has seized the opportunity. In camp, he has been a nice complementary receiver with impressive speed and reliable hands. In Friday's game, Underwood reinforced his camp performances.

So, what changed? How is he the same guy who played in just six games for the Patriots last season? A thought-provoking question from offseason training mate Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals' All-Pro, jump started things.

"Confidence is big in this league, because everybody is good," Underwood said. "It's what differentiates you. (Fitzgerald) asked me, 'Are you better than (Bucs star receiver) Vincent Jackson?' "

Underwood was puzzled.

He responded, " 'Nah, man. That's a Pro Bowler.' (Fitzgerald) said, 'Man, your mind-set isn't right. You've got to think that you're the best receiver on your team. If you don't you shouldn't be playing.' I've really taken that attitude from him. I really respect Vincent and his career. But your mind-set takes you a long way in this league."

When Underwood plays, the confidence comes through. It was on display in the second quarter at Miami, when Underwood dusted former first-round pick Vontae Davis, fooling him with a step to the inside before going outside for a 23-yard catch from backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky. Moments later, Underwood blew past cornerback Sean Smith, leaped and took the ball away from safety Jimmy Wilson for a 44-yard gain.

"That's good stuff," Schiano said later. "… That was pretty impressive on the production."

On both plays, Underwood showed off his speed, his best-known attribute. But Underwood would like to think he has layers. Fighting for the football the way he did is an example.

"Each receiver is known for something," he said. "I know I'm classified as a faster guy, but if you want to stick around in this league, you have to work on your overall craft. You have to be able to run intermediate routes, crossing routes over the middle. I have to make the deep routes better and then work on the other things that I don't do well."

Underwood's sense of urgency and his newfound confidence have contributed to his performance thus far. But what does a nice showing in training camp and a big performance in a meaningless preseason game really represent?

For a guy trying for three years to make his mark, it means a lot.

"Personally, it was a big building block," Underwood said. "For me and for a team. It was our first showing before a live audience. And for me, it was a big building block because I've done it in practice, but now it has to transfer to the game. It went well as a team and as an individual. That's a hell of a day."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at

Receiver Tiquan Underwood impressing in bid to make Tampa Bay Bucs 08/12/12 [Last modified: Sunday, August 12, 2012 7:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting


    UPDATE, 11:01: No Dickerson today as the Rays go with seven right-handers.

    Here is the lineup:

  2. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  3. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. This Tampa Bay Lightning wing rides the newest wave of fan interaction

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There are photos of Lightning fan Shaun Egger as a toddler at center ice at the then-Thunderome, aka Tropicana Field. He's played in the Lightning's high school hockey league for Palm Harbor University. But his closest personal encounter with players had been waving through a crowd after a training camp …

    Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown wears his anti UV glasses as he talks over the headset with a hockey fan while they play against each other on line in an XBOX NHL video game in Brown's game room at his home in south Tampa. The fan chose to be the Washington Capitals and Brown, of course, was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown interacts with fans through video game systems as he streams the games live on Twitch with plans for the proceeds to go to charity.
  5. ‘Biggest fight' behind her, Petra Kvitova returns ahead of schedule


    PARIS — Five months after a home invader's knife sliced into her left hand, Petra Kvitova will return to competitive tennis at the French Open, a last-minute decision to make her comeback earlier than expected.

    Petra Kvitova adjusts her hair during a news conference at Roland Garros Stadium, where she will make her tennis return at the French Open. Kvitova's left hand was badly injured by a knife-wielding intruder in December; she has recovered ahead of schedule. [Associated Press]