Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Lavonte David plays linebacker and only linebacker

TAMPA — Although there hasn't always been a consensus among his coaches, Bucs rookie Lavonte David believes he was born to be a linebacker.

He believed that even when he was a 65-pound peewee player riding the bench in Miami's talent-rich inner city. He knew it when he watched one of his heroes, Bucs great Derrick Brooks, return an interception for a touchdown during Super Bowl XXXVII three days after his 13th birthday.

And David remained certain it was his destiny even when a high school coach suggested he was better suited to play safety.

"I've played linebacker my whole life," David said. "And I started playing football when I was 6 years old."

That refusal to see himself as anything else has helped bring David to this point, where he is seen as the Bucs' likely starter this upcoming season on the weakside, the position Brooks played for 14 seasons.

Friday marked the first time this year's second-round pick donned a Bucs jersey and helmet as the team conducted the first day of a three-day rookie minicamp at One Buc Place.

And just like he has for years, David came prepared to answer questions about his ability to play the only position he has loved. Listed at 6 feet 1, 233 pounds (He was listed at 225 at Nebraska.) but considered undersized, David knew he would have to confront doubts again.

"On the size, I don't care what anybody says," David, 22, said.

"I've been doubted about my size my whole life. But playing in two different conferences (Big 12 and Big Ten at Nebraska), I (played against) better competition and prevailed in both and made All-American. I was doubted coming into the draft because of my size, but hopefully I can just improve on what I did in college."

The college resume convinced the Bucs to trade up 10 spots to draft David. He was a tackling machine for the Cornhuskers after transferring from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, registering 285 over two seasons.

"Just really a very productive linebacker," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said Friday. "At Nebraska, he played a position similar to what we think he can play here. He's a run-and-hit guy who has great instincts, locates the football and is good in pass coverage as well."

That's basically the job description of a weakside linebacker, a position at which the Bucs have a vacancy after Geno Hayes signed with the Bears this offseason.

David can't replace Brooks, an 11-time Pro Bowl pick. But the Bucs would settle for him becoming the sideline-to-sideline playmaker they believe he can be.

David seems aware of the oppor­tunity before him, but his humility won't allow him to make any assumptions.

"You have to earn everything you get," he said. "That's how I was brought up ever since I was playing little league football. My parents put that mentality in my head. I had respect for those guys at Nebraska, and I'll have the same respect for these guys here.

"I knew (the Bucs) needed some help (at linebacker). But you can't take anything for granted. I'm going to try my best and continue working and when it's time to play, be ready, whether it's on special teams or whatever."

Whether he plays special teams remains to be seen, but David will play linebacker.

The last coach who doubted his ability to play linebacker — at Miami Northwestern High — was swiftly proved wrong. David went on to star for the state and national champion Bulls.

"I came in with intentions of playing linebacker," David said. "(My coach) saw me and tried to move me to safety. But the linebackers coach wouldn't let me. So I stayed at linebacker."

Right where he belongs.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @HolderStephen.

Comments
Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

New details emerged Friday night about the Uber ride in Arizona in March 2016 that led to Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension to start the upcoming season, including the fact that Winston was in a car that night with a former Vand...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Chris Godwin on SiriusXM: Bucs have confidence in backup QBs

Chris Godwin on SiriusXM: Bucs have confidence in backup QBs

Bucs receiver Chris Godwin, who has had as good an offseason as any Tampa Bay player, was on SiriusXM NFL radio for a scheduled interview on Thursday night, talking about a range of subjects, including the news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start...
Published: 06/22/18
With Winston suspension, how might Bucs split QB reps in preseason?

With Winston suspension, how might Bucs split QB reps in preseason?

With news that Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first three games of 2018, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has an interesting decision to make for training camp and especially in preseason games: How does he split reps between Winston and backup Ryan...
Published: 06/22/18
Bucs QB Jameis Winston’s suspension: What they’re saying

Bucs QB Jameis Winston’s suspension: What they’re saying

There are so many sides to the Jameis Winston suspension, and it will continue to be a major Bucs story line through September and beyond. Here's some of the reactions and notes that have already emerged in the first 24 hours since news broke Thursda...
Published: 06/22/18
Welcome back to the dark side, Bucs fans

Welcome back to the dark side, Bucs fans

TAMPA — Thursday was not the end of Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay, but it is in sight.Me? I was sitting at home. I was tired of the NBA draft, even with Tampa's Kevin Knox going to the New York Knicks.So I switched to the NFL Network. An episode ...
Published: 06/22/18
Winston aftermath: Report says Darby wasn’t in car for whole ride

Winston aftermath: Report says Darby wasn’t in car for whole ride

There's no telling how much detail will be disclosed in what the NFL learned in its investigation that led to Jameis Winston being suspended for the first three games of the upcoming season, but some have already been reported in the first 24 hours s...
Published: 06/22/18
Kwon Alexander to Jameis Winston: ‘We gotcha back’

Kwon Alexander to Jameis Winston: ‘We gotcha back’

There are many questions in the aftermath of Thursday's news that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season, but even before the suspension is officially announced, he is drawing support on social ...
Published: 06/22/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston to receive three-game suspension

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston to receive three-game suspension

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended by the NFL for three games according to reports, and that number could go up if he doesn't meet certain criteria.Rick Stroud explains that the suspension is not for a failure to report the 2016 i...
Published: 06/22/18
Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

The NFL will suspend Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston three games without pay to start the regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The suspension could be increased if he fails to meet certain undisclosed requirements expect...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

TAMPA — The news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start this season likely means the Bucs will have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in at quarterback for the first three games of the regular season.Fitzpatrick took over as the starter for th...
Published: 06/21/18