TAMPA — His bustling day included a walk-through at Bucs headquarters and a breakthrough at two random locations.
Twice on Tuesday, 310-pound left guard Nick Leverett imposed his will and created daylight for a complete stranger. The first instance occurred at a gas station: While putting fuel in his pickup, Leverett was approached by a man who appeared homeless and was seeking money.
“So I told him, ‘Go inside and get whatever you want,’” the 25-year-old North Carolina native said. “I think he got, like, two slices of pizza, a big 40-ounce (cup) of soda. He was like, ‘Dude, you literally just made my day.’”
Hours later, while at a burger place with some teammates, Leverett encountered a similarly forlorn soul and purchased him a $50 gift card on the spot.
“My main goal in life is to return the world better than I found it,” said Leverett, one of only 22 college players named to the 2018 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team while at North Carolina Central.
“Growing up, my dad and mom instilled that in me. That’s why I was on the Good Works Team and stuff like that, because that’s just what’s held true to me — returning the world better than I found it.”
From a humanitarian perspective, the Bucs’ expectations Thursday night for Leverett aren’t nearly so noble. At this critical juncture of the season, when they can’t buy a yard on third-and-1 and the fissure in their pass protection remains glaring, they don’t need this former undrafted free agent to be charitable.
After playing 20 snaps in relief of maligned rookie Luke Goedeke in Sunday’s 21-3 loss to the Panthers, Leverett makes his first NFL start Thursday against the Ravens. Goedeke is nursing a foot injury and hasn’t practiced this week, opening the door for Leverett — who graded out better than Goedeke against Carolina, according to Pro Football Focus — to perhaps seize the job.
“We liked (Leverett) in summer camp,” coach Todd Bowles said following Wednesday’s practice.
“He was feisty, he was smart. He was one of the first ones in the building; he studied. He had some technique things to work on just like Luke, but they were neck-and-neck in the (left guard) spot and we like his aggressiveness.”
If Leverett can build on the modest sample size he offered Sunday, the Bucs will have no choice but to stick with him. Pro Football Focus ranks Goedeke 72nd of the 77 NFL guards with enough snaps to qualify. Against the Panthers, Leverett finished with a grade of 74.3; Goedeke played more than twice as many snaps (48), but had a far lower grade (55.2).
“They both graded out OK,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. “But as a group, it wasn’t good enough.”
Stay updated on the Buccaneers
Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
While the Bucs hope Leverett can provide more consistency than Goedeke, he’ll bring a reputation for nastiness similar to their second-round pick, who started each of the first seven games.
The great paradox surrounding Leverett at North Carolina Central was a ruthlessness that belied his off-field benevolence. Between building homes for Habitat for Humanity, teaching fellow male students how to tie a necktie and collecting unused toiletries from team hotels to distribute to homeless missions, Leverett totaled 103 pancake blocks in three seasons with the Eagles, where he also played tackle.
He transferred to Rice for his last season in 2019, started all 12 games at left guard, and gave up two sacks in 320 pass attempts. The Bucs signed him in May 2020, and he remained on the practice squad until the following January. He was elevated to the active roster at the dawn of the 2021 season, when linebacker Cam Gill went on injured reserve, and appeared in two games that year.
“I always played with tenacity,” said Leverett, who has 80 offensive snaps in the NFL. “That was the one thing that helped me with all my pancakes and stuff, just finishing the block and imposing the man’s will against him, and just playing nasty and dirty.”
More than ever, the Bucs’ offensive line needs that type of snarl — from one of their Samaritans.
“You always see people asking, ‘Can I have some money?’ or ‘Can you help me eat something?’” Leverett said. “And just me being that source to where, like, I’m somebody’s angel of the day, that makes me happy a lot.”
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.
Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.