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Former USF star Deadrin Senat trying to extend new lease on NFL career with Bucs

The Falcons’ third-round pick in 2018 hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2020.
Bucs tackle Deadrin Senat (95), a former USF standout, participates during Tampa Bay's organized team activities Wednesday at AdventHealth Training Center.
Bucs tackle Deadrin Senat (95), a former USF standout, participates during Tampa Bay's organized team activities Wednesday at AdventHealth Training Center. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 26|Updated May 26

TAMPA — In a previous life, Deadrin Senat routinely tested the stress levels of the straight bars in USF’s weight room.

At one point in his Bulls career, which included three bowl trips and two All-American Athletic Conference nods, the 6-foot-1 nose tackle boasted a 675-pound squat and flirted with 500 pounds on the bench press. You know, just a kid being crazy in college.

“I ain’t trying to be a crazy bencher anymore or a heavy squatter,” said the Immokalee native, who turns 28 in July. “The game is changing, so you’ve got to be able to move. ... At this point, you don’t go super crazy in the weight room.”

These days, Senat’s focus is far more on maintaining than maxing out, enhancing flexibility, creating an equilibrium in one’s personal and professional life, and embracing every precious opportunity to perpetuate an NFL career.

Besides, benching has a far more grim connotation than it did in his strongman heyday.

A Falcons third-round draft choice in 2018, Senat hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since Dec. 20, 2020. Waived by Atlanta in November after tearing a pectoral muscle last spring, he’s trying to resuscitate his career with the Bucs, who signed him to a one-year deal in April.

“I’m just happy and blessed to be back on the field and happy that I’ve got an opportunity to be on another team and continue trying to fight for a great career and everything,” said Senat, who appeared in only 22 games during his injury-besieged four-year tenure in Atlanta.

“But I’m just taking it one day at a time. I go home every night, reevaluate everything and just sit back and, like, ‘You know what? Damn, it’s a blessing to be back on the field.’”

Listed at 305 pounds on the Bucs’ offseason roster, Senat has remained a regular at the Bucs’ organized team activities, which continued Wednesday. At this point, earning a spot on the depth chart behind Pro Bowler Vita Vea and veteran Rakeem Nunez-Roches seems plausible.

The irony therein: That spot became vacant when the team opted to move on from 36-year-old Steve McLendon after the 2021 season. Senat, who underwent the first surgery of his life for his torn pec last May, spent the ensuing months working out at McLendon’s north Georgia-based gym.

“He gave me an opportunity, man, told me (that) after rehab I’d still have a place to come train,” Senat said. “So he had his whole team dedicate their time to train me from 10 (a.m.) to 2 (p.m.) every day, and during the season while (the Bucs) were in season.”

Physically, Senat still resembles the same sturdy force of nature — with the high motor and low center of gravity — that totaled 115 tackles and seven sacks his final two seasons at USF. Off the field, he now has a steady girlfriend and 2-year-old son, Dash, whom he named after the fleet kid character from the movie, “The Incredibles.”

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“All he wants to do is run,” said Senat, who lost both of his own parents before his college career ended. “Always wants to be outside and everything. Keeps me happy, man, makes me really happy.”

His older sister, Manaika, also resides in Tampa with her children (including a newborn), while a grandmother lives in Ruskin. Also residing in the bay area is longtime mentor Tony Navarro, among a handful of surrogates who helped rescue Senat from a forlorn childhood in Immokalee.

But proximity to family wasn’t the overriding factor in Senat’s choice of the Bucs, among more than a dozen NFL teams that made overtures to him following his Falcons departure. Instead, he leaned on the advice of agents Jonathan Perzley and Brian Mackler, who told Senat he’d be a third-round pick coming out of USF in the spring of 2018.

“Yeah, I’ve been out for a year, but ... we’ve got a playoff-caliber team (in Tampa),” said Senat, the 90th overall pick that year.

“You’ve got a team who’s done something in the past couple of years. And just being able to be a part of that, being a part of a great (defensive) line group, having a good (defensive) line coach, just being around those type of things made the decision even easier to make.”

Moreover, the 3-4 scheme employed by the Bucs is a natural fit. And while Senat’s aspirations transcend simply making the final roster, new coach Todd Bowles said no depth-chart movement can be ascertained at this juncture.

“(It’s) just knowing their technique and understanding what they’ve got to do right now,” Bowles said Wednesday. “Their worth will come in training camp when we put the shoulder pads on.”

When that opportunity arrives, Senat can max out again, in a different sense.

“It’s a blessing to still have that (opportunity),” he said.

“I didn’t know. Will teams still want me, with me being out a year? So it just opened your eyes. Before, I thought I was invincible. Never had surgery before, knock on wood. Never had to get a needle put in, go to sleep and all that. It’s still fresh for me. I’m just happy to be back on the field.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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