TAMPA — Call him Vincent, or just Vince.
“Just not Vinny. That’s dad.”
Vincent Testaverde Jr. is used living in the shadow cast by his father, the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner and the Bucs’ 1987 No. 1 overall draft pick who still holds the title of being Tampa Bay’s all-time leading passer.
And though Vincent can appreciate having his first NFL opportunity with the organization his father played for — the 6-foot-1, 211-pound quarterback has a free-agent tryout at this weekend’s Bucs minicamp — he’s set on making a name for himself apart from his father.
“I’m just going to play my own game,” Vincent said Friday. “I’m not going to try to play the way my dad played because I’m a different person. He’s a different player. I’m just going to learn how I learn and perform the best I can.”
He is one of three quarterbacks at the rookie minicamp competing for the Bucs’ open fourth position. Testaverde is a hometown kid, having played high school football at Tampa Jesuit, two blocks from the Bucs’ training facility. But to say he has taken an indirect path to this opportunity would be an understatement.
MONICA HERNDON | TimesTryout quarterback Vincent Testaverde (2) during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rookie Mini-Camp on May 10, 2019 at the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa, Florida.
He didn’t play organized football until his junior year at Jesuit. His sports were basketball and baseball, but he became a football starter as a senior and walked on at Texas Tech in 2014. He played only one game with the Red Raiders, as a true freshman when future NFL star Patrick Mahomes was injured.
Seeking another opportunity, he transferred in 2015 to Miami, where his father played. He redshirted his first year and was on the practice squad the second year. He then transferred to Albany, a Division I-AA school, and got regular playing time for the first time last season.
DANIEL WALLACE | TimesJesuit quarterback Vincent Testaverde (14) talks to wide receivers coach Bob Roddenberry during a break in play against Dixie Hollins at Jesuit for a spring football game on Friday.
“I thought that he just needed somebody to believe in him a little bit,” said Albany coach Greg Gattuso. “I really wish we had him back, that there was a way to get him another year of eligibility because I really think he’d light it up this year. I think he would have been a superstar at our level. He’s not played a lot of games.
“He’s got talent, and it was just the confidence sometimes, and that’s natural for a guy who’s been a bunch of different places. He just never settled in and got a shot anywhere, and I think we gave him that.”
Testaverde has just nine college games under his belt. What he lacks in game experience, he makes up for in resiliency. He beat out two returning quarterbacks to win the starting job at Albany last year. He threw for 263 yards in his first start, at Pittsburgh, and went on to average 214.2 passing yards a game through his eight starts before an ankle injury ended his season.
“The last year was really all I needed,” Testaverde said. “I just needed some playing experience and real live action under my belt before I got here. I didn’t need three whole seasons playing. I feel like it gave me enough tape to watch of myself and kind of evaluate myself and make the changes I need to get better this year.”
Albany quarterback Vincent Testaverde (14) passes in the first half of an NCAA football game against the Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Testaverde received a tryout after impressing coaches at the Bucs’ local predraft workout day last month.
“He was impressive throwing the football,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He had a solid day (Friday). This is a big weekend for him, especially (today), being able to protect the ball a little bit better. … He showed enough to get to this point.”
Testaverde might be a long shot to be part of the Bucs. He probably doesn’t have the best arm, and he’s definitely not the biggest contender. But he believes he can stand out in showing the Bucs that he’s good at taking in information. His father taught him how to read defenses and the finer details of the position. The night before Friday’s first minicamp practice, Testaverde’s head was buried in his playbook.
“I just need to show the coaches that I can retain a bunch of information in a short amount of time,” he said. “They only give us one or two nights to prepare and to bring it out onto the field. I’ve got to learn it play it back through my mind and go show that I know how to do it out on the field.”
And what advice did Testaverde receive from his father, who spent 21 years in the NFL?
“Play your own game.”
“He knows I have the work ethic and I really want to study and really want to show the coaches that I know I can compete at this level,” Testaverde said. “I’m not going to go out here and try to be like him. Me and him have different games, different strengths. So I’m just going to go out there and play my game, that’s what he told me.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at [email protected] Follow @EddieInTheYard.