Boise State cornerback Jonathan Moxey is trying to make the Bucs' roster this fall as an undrafted rookie, and one of the reasons he chose to sign with the Bucs was a close look at their cornerbacks, and specifically, their height.
"They don't shy away from smaller corners -- they have 5-9, 5-10, 5-11 corners on their roster," said Moxey, himself listed at 5-10 and 188 pounds. "They won't discriminate based on height."
Indeed, the Bucs' starting cornerbacks are both 5-10 in Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves, with backup Ryan Smith the tallest of the 10 on roster at 6-0. Head coach Dirk Koetter mentioned corner as a position where an undrafted rookie might be able to make the roster, with Moxey and West Virginia's Maurice Fleming in the mix.
"I feel like I can fit into it -- there's a lot of stuff I have to learn as a corner," Moxey said. "It's the splits and alignments, the numbers and the hashes, distances from the sidelines are different than they were in college, little things like that that I have to get used to. I feel like working with Coach (Jon) Hoke and Coach (Brett) Maxie, I know they can get me there and I just have to continue to listen to their coaching."
Moxey, a three-year starter in college, is one of three Bucs rookies from Boise -- running back Jeremy McNichols was drafted in the fifth round, and receiver Thomas Sperbeck is another undrafted free agent, and having two familiar faces in rookie minicamp helped Moxey feel at home.
"It's great to have those guys there -- it made it a little easier and we felt a little more comfortable," he said.
Koetter got his first head coaching job at Boise State, and current Broncos coach Bryan Harsin playedq quarterback under Koetter at Boise. Moxey had another tie in Bucs scout Antwon Murray, a former Boise defensive back who was the Broncos' assistant director of player personnel before going to Tampa Bay.
Moxey, 22, is from West Palm Beach, so he's glad to be closer to home with the Bucs after spending his college career in the opposite corner of the country. He had other scholarship offers from Sun Belt schools, including Florida Atlantic close to home, but thought it best to get away.
"Sometimes you have to leave to achieve," he said. "It was a business decision. I felt like I had to get away, because if not, that atmosphere can suck you in. Half the people I grew up with, they're not successful right now. A lot of them are incarcerated, some of them are dead. Guys I knew in my neighborhood, people I literally grew up with, lived a few houses down from.
"I had to separate myself, had to make sacrifices, make the right decisions along the way, and that's why I am where I am. I feel blessed to be able to be in the situation I'm in, to go off to Boise and to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer right now."
His coach at Dwyer, Jack Daniels, said Moxey is remembered as much for his smarts and his commitment to getting better as much as anything physical.
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"He does everything right, on and off the field. Just a great kid who was a lot of fun to coach," Daniels said. "Moxey obviously has skills because he's made it this far, but he works so hard. He's a technician. I wouldn't say he's the fastest, but he does every little thing right. He works on his fundamentals, studies route trees, watches receivers. He loves football and wants to be really good at it."
Far from home, Moxey loved the Boise experience -- even "playing on the blue" on the Broncos' signature field -- and learned even more to play as part of a team and not as an individual.
"I loved being around a bunch of guys that understand that the program is bigger than themselves," he said. "And we always had an underdog mentality. Boise is a big program, but it's also small. We get a lot of two-star recruits, like myself. We always played with a chip on our shoulder, and that's something I always loved about Boise."
The Bucs open their 2017 season at Miami, which would give him a homecoming of sorts for his first NFL game if he's fortunate enough to make the roster.
"I'm a Florida guy, and it'll be great to have my mom and my fam come to the games," he said. "That first game, she looked it up right away. That's extra motivation for me to get out there, work hard and earn my respect."