Richard Wood used to talk about someday. Wood would sit around the locker room, and he would talk about the future. Someday, he would say, he would be a coach in the National Football League. And his teammates would listen, and they would look.
And they would laugh.
"My teammates laughed at me," Wood said. "I don't want to mention any names, but I remember them laughing. There weren't a lot of black coaches then. I told them, "laugh if you want to.'
For Wood, someday came in May, at the Bucs' mini-camp. That's when Wood walked onto the field on the other side of the whistle as a coaching trainee for his old team.
For the Bucs, the position is new, but it could be the latest move to add more minority coaches to the NFL. Head coach Richard Williamson said Wood's future could involve progression into a full-time coaching position.
"It would depend on how he progresses," Williamson said. "He might do it for a year and decide he doesn't want to do it anymore. But down the road, if he does a good job, sure it would be a possibility. Or he could join another staff. There are a lot of scenarios that could happen."
The Bucs' appointment is one of several ways the NFL is trying to stimulate the hiring of minority coaching candidates. Each summer, the league has the College Fellowship Program, in which black coaches assist teams during training camp.
"They aren't just out there walking around, they're coaching," said David Cornwell, an assistant legal counsel and director of equal employment for the NFL,
From that, six assistant coaches (Rod Perry of Seattle, LaCharls McDaniel of San Diego, Ollie Wilson of Atlanta, Mel Forte of Denver, Herman Edwards of Kansas City and Jerry Brown of Minnesota) have been hired.
The Bucs consider their coaching trainee position a move even more positive.
"It's the step beyond the College Fellowship Program," Krueger said. "With that, you get acquainted with the coach, and he gets to see a little of the operation of an NFL club. But a lot of it is social, and the coaches are only with you for two weeks.
"This way, Richard is going to have a definite coaching assignment. So far, it's worked really well. Floyd Peters (the defensive coordinator) has said that he's really pleased with Richard and the way he relates to players."
So far, Wood has served as a defensive assistant, helping to coach linebackers and special-teammers and helping with the computer breakdown.
"I'm ecstatic," Wood said. "Walking out there on the field as a coach for the first time felt so good that I was silent for words. I pray I can do something good for the players and the coaching staff."
In the meantime, Wood says that he is learning.
"I'm a rookie," he said, laughing. "I'm at the bottom of the totem pole. But look who I get to be around and absorb from _ Floyd Peters, Dale Lindsay, Steve Shafer. It's a learning experience for me."
Wood said that "in the next six to 10 years" he would like to be a coordinator. "I'm just starting to climb the ladder," he said.
Cornwell said he sees the Bucs' hiring of a coaching trainee as a positive sight.
"I have no doubt that (general manager) Phil Krueger has every intent of challenging him (Wood)," Cornwell said, "and that if he does a good job, he'll move him up."
If that happens, odds are that Wood will again think of the laughter of his old teammates.
"When I walked out on that field," Wood said, "I thought "If they could see me now ' "