Player, ETSU’s star defensive end, signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night after not being selected in the NFL draft.
The 6-foot-5 Player, who played at 271 pounds last season, was hoping to get a call on the final day of the draft. He showed up in some mock drafts as a potential late-round selection. But when he wasn’t one of the 255 players drafted, he began to examine his options.
Tampa Bay didn’t draft a defensive end among its seven picks and Washington’s Benning Potoa’e was the only other one the Bucs signed after the draft.
In Tampa Bay’s defense, the ends play more like outside linebackers, rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. Of the five outside linebackers on the current roster, only Jason Pierre-Paul (11 years) and Shaquille Barret (seven) have more than two years’ experience.
When Player gets to Tampa, he will be trying to make a team with a new enthusiasm bolstered by the signing of six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and the trade for All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The Bucs drafted Tristan Wirfs, a highly regarded offensive tackle, in the first round.
Player was the Southern Conference’s preseason defensive player of the year going into the 2019 season. After the season, he made four All-America teams.
“I think my time at ETSU prepared me for this,” he said heading into the draft. “I stayed five years there and those five years was like a roller coaster. There was always things changing, new players, new coaches, just a lot of changes.
“There’s always some kind of adversity you have to face. And you have to face it. You can either complain about it or you can work through it. I chose to work through it. That’s what prepared me for this next step.”