TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the lookout for a game-changing safety and sent secondary coach Jon Hoke to the University of Washington Wednesday to privately work out Budda Baker, one of the most dynamic safeties in this year's draft.
Baker tells ESPN.com about how watching film of Bucs great Ronde Barber helped him master the position, his longtime friendship with Myles Jack and more.
Your Washington position coach Jimmy Lake used to be an assistant in Tampa, under Jon Gruden and Raheem Morris. Has he talked much about his Bucs days or shown you that tape?
BB: Coach Lake always talks about his "heydays," because some of the types of defenses that we ran. The Buccaneers, when he was coaching, ran them as well. ... We'll watch film of Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib. ... It looks like 1960s film, but it helps us a lot.
What do you think of Ronde?
BB: I think it's kind of just like me. I weigh a little more, but I feel like the way I play is kind of like him. He can play safety, corner, nickel and have success in the NFL and that's what I plan on doing as well. And I also feel like my size and getting beat by a big-bodied tight end or a big wide receiver, but I always watch film with Coach Lake and we watch film of Ronde covered tight ends and all that kind of stuff, and you see Ronde Barber covering Tony Gonzalez. You see him holding his own. So when people say that, I let that go in one ear and out the other.
Who else has inspired you?
BB: Tyrann Mathieu. He has that versatility, being able to play corner, nickel and safety ... he's not a big guy, he's not a stereotypical-sized safety, but you can see him making tackles, making open-field tackles, covering the slot -- whether it's a tight end or a slot receiver and doing all that type of stuff. And then Earl Thomas, just because of the way he plays the game, just always around the football, running to the ball, you never see him loafing, making pin-point breaks out the post to a wide receiver to break on the ball or to break to tackle him.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve gotten throughout this whole process?
BB: Two things -- one is just time, so however you make your time, that’s gonna show forth when you’re on the football field. How you use your time a lot, whether it’s if you want to lay down and watch TV or if you want to lay down and watch film. And football is all about angles. That’s always stuck with me. It doesn’t matter how big you are, strong you are, how fast you are -- if you can create an angle being a defensive player on the football or on the person running the ball, you’ll either be able to tackle the ball carrier or get an interception.
You and Myles Jack were teammates at Bellevue High School and when he wanted to improve his coverage skills, he enlisted your help. You guys would practice three and four hours at the park every day?
BB: Oh, yeah. Myles is a competitor. In high school, he wanted to be a defensive back-type. He wanted to be a linebacker who could cover slot receivers, even regular receivers as well. It would be me and another one of his buddies from Georgia that came down ... we would always take turns playing against Myles. He would play defense and we would play offense. In the beginning, we would shake Myles around a little bit (laughs). But each time, he got better, and I feel like now, he can cover anybody. I’m not saying that because of us two, but because of all the work he’s put in.
His pre-draft experience was probably different from yours because of the concerns about his knee, but what were you able to take from watching that?
BB: He helped me a lot with the combine, just told me how it’s gonna be, how it’s gonna be hectic, there’s gonna be a lot of hardship on your mind as well, not just physically but mentally. ... And throughout the process that I’m having right now with the private workouts and team visits -- if the coaches tell you something positive, just keep it in the back of your mind. Don’t really listen to it, because at the end of the day, you’ve got to wait until who you’re really with.
How hard was it seeing your teammate Sidney Jones go down with an injury at your pro day?
BB: It was definitely crazy when it happened. Sid is like one of the strongest guys on the team and mentally as well. When that happened, I thought he just, like, hit his foot or something. Like he tripped over his foot, so I just thought it would be one of those. I helped him up and he didn’t, like, start walking. So, I really feared for the worst. When I heard he tore his Achilles, I felt really bad for him. [I’ve] just tried to keep it positive with him. I know he’s gonna get on a team and we always talk about how it’s God’s plan.