Zyon McCollum didn’t find the heat and humidity of his first practice as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer too surprising, having spent eight years in a similar climate in Galveston, Texas. If anything, “the air sticks to you a little more” in Tampa, McCollum said.
The other thing that stuck to McCollum after Friday’s workout was the wide smile on his face. Friday was the start of the Buccaneers’ three-day junior camp, and the former Sam Houston State player had first made his way to the team’s headquarters just a day earlier. His new team had a run in the morning and then sped up in the afternoon, and the rookie in the back corner was clearly enjoying his first taste of the NFL.
“I just love life,” McCollum said, and his smile somehow grows. “And doing what I love about good people, I can’t help but feel all that energy.
“I’ve tried to internalize everything but a lot of it comes to you so quickly that you kind of roll with the punches. So I’ve been trying to stay in the moment, sure, and then enjoy it. Sure when I get back to my hotel room, I’ll have a moment to take It’s all there.”
McCollum became captain of the hack when the team traded the 2023 fourth-round draft pick for Jacksonville on the final day of this year’s draft to get the fifth player they needed to pick the long, fast corner kick. Tampa Bay’s scouts and coaches clearly loved his combination of size (6-2, 199), length and speed (4.38 40 yard dash) but he would clearly need time to transition from FCS college football to the NFL. McCollum wasted no time in starting the process by absorbing everything he heard from Buccaneers Cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross, who himself was a former NFL cornerback.
“I’ve already learned a lot,” McCollum said. “I mean, I’ve only met him a few times, but I’m definitely a lot quieter on the court. I feel like I see a lot. It makes the stadium look smaller than it is, so I’m enjoying that.”
McCollum explained that Ross made the field appear smaller by defining what responsibilities were and what were not.
“In college, I feel like you’re being asked to do very different things, so you feel like you have to cover everyone at the same time,” said the rookie. “But here knowing that you have top level talent around you and they are expected to do their job, I’m just focused on doing my job. And then also understanding football IQ – what happens in certain situations – makes me feel like I know exactly where I’ll be before I’m there .
“It’s definitely a lot different technically. I played the press guy a lot and got pretty confused on the line of scrimmage. It was more aggressive. This thing here, playing a lot of coverage outside of one, and then being patient and dealing with the line of scrimmage. Which is something I was I’m working on it in my training, so I’m very comfortable with it. But honestly, I’m happy. I want to learn every aspect of how to play this game so I don’t have weaknesses.”
As expected, McCollum has already started working as a gunner in Punt and there’s a good chance he’ll win one of those jobs as an apprentice, given his size and speed. The Buccaneers are bringing back all three of their key players from last year – Carlton Davis, Jamal Dean and Sean Murphy-Banting – so he should have time to ease into his role in defence. Of course, that wasn’t the case for Davis, Dean and Murphy-Banting, and the potential for injuries means any player on the roster isn’t far from the starting lineup. McCollum was not afraid of this thought.
“Just being in the field, the coaches see something in you, they see something in me,” he said. “So I expect, I know, that I can play in terms of my talent and athleticism. So for now, I feel comfortable with everything and everyone, and just trying to get everyone to trust me. Once these players and these coaches trust me, I will be able to play at a level high “.
As much as McCollum enjoyed his first day on the job as Tampa Bay Buccaneer, it was still only one day. There is still a long way to go before he or any of his junior colleagues secure any particular jobs. Still, it’s nice to get off to a good start, and McCollum’s smile made clear he thought that was the case, had it not been for another reason than to get football back into his life.
“It was wonderful,” he said. “I love this game, so I’m definitely happy to be back here. And on the grass too. All these little things – I take the details into account and I try to enjoy everything. But I definitely try to learn, especially from all the coaches and the planner. Everything comes to you quickly, but you You just try to be comfortable and I love him.”