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28 April 2017

Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 First Round Draft Pick Media Availability (4/28/17)

(Opening Statements)
General Manager Jason Licht: “Well, good afternoon. It’s our pleasure, we’re very proud to present and introduce O.J. [Howard] to the Buccaneer family. But first I want to introduce, or also welcome his family. Louisa, Kareem and K.J. Great family, we’re happy to have you here and we’re excited about the future for you guys, too. Any time you can add a player of O.J.’s talent on the field, plus what he brings off the field and what he’s going to bring to the team, it puts us in a euphoric state like we were last night and we still are. We’re just very, once again very excited about the future. I’ll leave it short here and let Dirk (Koetter) say a few words but we’re happy to have you.”
Head Coach Dirk Koetter: “Yeah, same from where we sit on the coaching side. [I] said it last night, we couldn’t be more excited than having O.J. join us. Great fit for what we want to do. We met O.J. and the family today, first thing I noticed was younger brother K.J.’s ring. It’s the same size as the Super Bowl ring we’re trying to get now that O.J.’s here. So get a chance to check that ring out, that thing is awesome. So, once again, we talked about it last night, but excited as heck. Had a nice talk with (Alabama) Coach [Nick] Saban this morning about all the things O.J. brings to the table and things we knew about already. Very excited, welcome.”
Tight End O.J. Howard: “Hello everybody. I just want to say thank you to the whole Tampa Bay organization, the Glazer family, Coach Koetter, Mr. Licht. I just want to thank everybody for the opportunity to allow me to come and be a part of this franchise. I’m very excited to get to work and I know we have big plans in the future. Go Bucs.”
(On what the process has been like since being drafted by the Buccaneers)
OH: “I’ve been very overwhelmed, very excited about it. This is something that I’ve dreamed of for a long time as a kid, and just to finally be here and be a part of it, it’s amazing. A lot of hard work was put in before this day so it’s finally paying off.”
(On if he thinks Alabama prepares players for the NFL better than other schools)
OH: “I think Coach Saban and his staff did a great job of getting us ready. Just the way we practice and he always tells us, ‘This is how it would be, how the NFL is, so you guys [have] got to do it this way because it’s going to be like this at the next level.’ I think we’re one of the programs that do it that way. There’s a lot of other great programs that also do it that way. But you know, I think the programs that, like I said do it that way, guys have really good success at the next level.”
(On one piece of advice he took from Nick Saban)
OH: “Just stay focused and always keep the main thing, the main thing. Don’t get too caught up in things that [aren’t] very important. He always talks about being very consistent and putting a lot of hard work in. So, I listen to him about those type of things and I really think it pays off.”
(On if he was disappointed in dropping to No. 19)
OH: “The draft is very unpredictable. Going into it I talked about it with my agent, anywhere from six to 20. I went 19 so I wasn’t very surprised. Like I said, the draft is very unpredictable, people make trades so I fell in the right place and I’m very excited about it.”
(On what he knows about the Bucs offense and where he sees himself fitting into it)
OH: “I know Coach’s past, he had some great tight ends. I know what kind of offensive mind he has so I’m just looking forward to it. I feel I can come in and be a part of the offense. I’m just going to come in and be a great team player.”
(On what he needs to improve on at the NFL level)
OH: “I would just say, you know, being consistent. Blocking at this level, guys are so good, everybody is really fast and strong. I have to be very consistent with my technique and the run game. Also, running routes.”
(On if he always played tight end or if there was a point in his career he transitioned to the position)
OH: “In high school I kind of played a little bit of everything. Towards my senior season I really focused on tight end because I kind of, you know, Coach Saban was talking about recruiting me as a tight end. I went to Alabama as a recruit as a linebacker one time, so I didn’t know what I was going to be. Like I said with senior season I kind of transformed into a tight end and I’ve been here ever since.”
(On if his experience and knowledge of playing linebacker helps him perform at tight end)
OH: “It does a lot. There are some linebackers that are really fast, there’s some that aren’t. You just have to know who you’re playing against. That’s what it comes down to, studying film to know who your opponent is. But reading coverages and all that, it really takes toll.”
(On if there are any Buccaneers he has existing relationships with)
OH: “Yeah, Vernon [Hargreaves] is a guy I know. Channing Ward is another guy I know. Those would probably be two of the guys I kind of know on more of a personal kind of level. I’ve heard of other guys, I’ve spoken to them before, but those are two of the guy I kind of know on a personal level.”
(On what jumped out to him when he watched quarterback Jameis Winston play)
OH: “Leadership. I love the way he brings enthusiasm every time he’s on the field. He’s a leader and also on the field he makes great plays. He’s a competitor and I think that’s what it takes.”
(On his impression of the Buccaneers prior to being drafted by the team)
OH: “What really jumped out to me was when Tampa last season played Dallas, I think on a [Sunday] night. The way I saw them competing, I love that. They had a great season and that jumped out, improvement every year. That was always in my mind, I never thought I could probably be here. But you know, now that I’ve thought about that back then, it’s like, ‘Hey, it all makes sense.’ So, I really noticed them early in the season.”
Reporter: “They lost that game, though. It was the Dallas game.”
O.J. Howard: “It was the Dallas game. They lost, but I mean, they were close.”
Dirk Koetter: “Don’t be a buzzkill [laughter].”
OH: “They were competing, though, I loved it.”
(On how he has developed as a blocker)
OH: “I would just say, every day at Alabama, we would start off with blocking drills and our position drills and team runs. I think those are two of the things that we did a lot that made me become a better blocker. It was either learn how to block or you really didn’t get the chance to play a lot. So, I really think that helped me out.”
(On Howard’s decision to show up and play in the Senior Bowl despite other recruits not participating)
JL: “Well, I think it says a lot about him. It jived with everything that we’ve heard about O.J. for the last couple years. Our scouts had their eye on O.J. all of last year as well. It was 2015 when we thought there was a chance [Howard] might come out. So, there’s been a lot of work done by [Director of College Scouting] Mike Biehl, [Director of Player Personnel] John Spytek and our scouts that he was the type of guy that is a team-first guy that won’t back down from a challenge. So, when he played in the Senior Bowl, it was no surprise to us, but it just speaks of his character.”
DK: “Another thing along those lines, the first day of Senior Bowl practice in pads, Jason and I were sitting up on about the 35-yard line and O.J. put on a clinic that day. After about two periods, I stood up, said to Jason, ‘I’ve seen the guy I want,’ and I walked down the stairs.”
(On what stood out to him about Tampa Bay’s team during the Dallas game last season)
OH: “The little bit that I can remember about it, I loved the way they competed. I saw [quarterback] Jameis [Winston] make some great plays, some of the tight ends make some great catches, all of the guys. The offense was clicking on all cylinders. They had Dallas on their toes the entire game and that’s what stood out to me, the way they competed.”
(On what stood out to them about Howard’s character before drafting him)
JL: “The thing that stands out is you can’t get anybody to say a negative thing about him. When we talk about character, we want guys to be great off the field, be positive members of the community, but most of the time, we are talking about football character and that’s what he embodies. It’s team first. He’s very passionate about the game, he loves it and that’s very important to us for players and when we talk about the right kind of guy being a Buc, he’s the definition. We have a lot of them on our team now. So, he fits into the culture well and he’s going to continue to help us build the culture that we’re building right now and that we continue to build.”
(On where he believes his character comes from)
OH: “It starts with my parents. Just being a young kid, you get disciplined. You know right from wrong at that age and then it stays with you when you grow up. It started, like I said when I was younger, being disciplined for doing wrong and I think that’s where it comes from”
(On staying in his hometown for draft night with his family)
OH: “It was awesome. We were originally supposed to have about 120 people and 200 showed up, so that tells you how that went. It was a very good time. You can’t really take a lot of people with you to the draft, so I had a lot of people that meant a lot to me, so I wanted to do it back home and it turned out to be great.”
(On whether or not he was a good baseball player when he was younger)
OH: “Yeah, yeah. I was pretty good.”
(On when he decided to focus on football over baseball)
OH: “I would say, football, probably around 10th grade, 9th grade. Like you said, baseball was always a sport I loved to play. I just knew with baseball, you had to go through a long process with the minors and it really wasn’t in my interest to do that when I was getting pretty good at football.”

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