TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back Rachaad White wanted to soak up every moment of his first NFL practice -- he caught himself staring at the giant red flag on the Bucs’ pewter-colored helmets (he even tried to take his back to the team hotel, but the equipment staff stopped him) and at the jerseys, thinking thoughts of living out his dreams.
But it wasn’t until he went back into the locker room after practice and saw a group of fellow rookies gathered around quarterback Tom Brady’s locker that another realization hit him: He’ll be taking handoffs, catching passes and picking up blitzes for arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, whose NFL career has spanned nearly his and every other Buccaneer rookie’s entire life.
“They were like, ‘Yeah, man, Tom, his locker is so clean and neat.’ So that just goes to show you how Tom Brady is,” White recalled.
“I went over there and was like, ‘Yeah, that’s crazy.’ Of course, I don’t touch nothing in nobody’s locker 'cause that’s just how it goes. But it’s just crazy to see like how organized and neat his locker is. Mine’s kind of dirty already.”
Defensive tackle Logan Hall, the Bucs’ first pick (second round) in the draft and the 33rd overall selection out of the University of Houston, who coincidentally grew up on a street called Buccaneer Lane in Belton, Texas, got to see Brady’s locker when he took a top-30 visit before the draft, which was a surreal experience.
“I was [freaking out] so hard. It was unreal,” said Hall, who was born on April 22, 2000 – exactly six days after Brady was selected 199th overall in the 2000 draft, making him the first Brady teammate who was born after he was drafted. The two haven’t gotten to meet yet, as Brady was not present for the Bucs’ first day of OTAs this week.
“I’ll be shocked. I’ll try not to stutter and things like that,” Hall said, laughing. “But it will be really cool to see him.”
Upon learning starting right tackle Tristan Wirfs recently got Brady’s phone number and was giddy over it, Hall said, “That’s understandable.”
Throughout the pre-draft process, guard Luke Goedeke, the Bucs' 57th overall draft pick out of Central Michigan, repeatedly told friends and family he didn't have a "dream team." But he confessed he hoped he would be picked by Tampa Bay, because of Brady.
"I grew up in Wisconsin, obviously, so I had to root for the Packers somewhat, but to be honest with you, I liked the Patriots more because of Tom Brady," Goedeke said. "This is like a dream come true for me.”
“I know that the moment I see him, it’s kinda gonna be like, ‘Whoa!’ Like kind of like a shellshock type of thing,” said cornerback Zyon McCollum, a fifth-round draft pick out of Sam Houston State. “I just try to stay in the moment, and whenever that moment comes, I’ll be there.”
Brady’s been known to pick on young defensive backs in practice, like a shark sniffing blood in the water, but McCollum said he’ll embrace the challenge.
“If I get tested, hopefully I end up getting me one,” McCollum said. “I’m definitely gonna absorb everything, learn from everything -- from his walk, talk, everything.
"Just because he’s on the offensive side of the ball -- they say defensive guys are supposed to know more about offense than offensive guys, and when you’ve got a GOAT like him, going at you in practice, getting the ball out fast, making checks, staring at you and knowing exactly where I’m going before I even know -- I’m gonna try to pick up on it fast.”
Rookie tight end Cade Otton, a fourth-round draft pick out of Washington, called being teammates with Brady “super surreal.”
While he wasn’t one of the players standing around Brady’s locker, he said, “I wouldn’t put it past myself to do that. Just super cool.”
But he also acknowledged that he and his fellow rookies will have to get past the ‘awe factor,’ just as Brady’s other Bucs teammates have had to do before him.
“Ultimately, he’s gonna be one of my teammates, and we’ve gotta be able to work together,” Otton said.
Fellow rookie tight end Ko Kieft, a sixth-round draft pick out of Minnesota, isn’t expecting Brady to go easy on them.
“That hasn’t really hit,” Kieft said. “But I’m sure he’ll be a demanding dude."