Work in Sports
Buc wild: Happy to be in Tampa Bay
Posted: Thursday April 20, 2000 04:18 PM
Former Kentucky tight end James Whalen was chosen in the fifth round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whalen was named an All-American by CNNSI.com after he set two NCAA records for pass receptions by a tight end. James filed this Draft Day Diary with CNNSI.com after being selected by the Bucs.
It still hasn't sunk in yet. I'm still kind of in awe. And I'm kind of surprised to be going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But I'm absolutely thrilled.
It's kind of funny, I only spoke with Coach Dungy and their staff for a little bit at the Combine. It didn't seem like Tampa Bay paid too much attention to me, but I guess I made an impression on them.
Watching the draft and waiting for your name to be called is an experience. But I was patient and everything worked out. After Coach Dungy called to tell me that they were picking me, I celebrated with my parents and friends a little bit, but mostly took it easy. I did go to the mall here in Lexington looking for a Bucs hat. I went to eight different stores and couldn't find one. I already have orders to fill for my family.
Overall, I wasn't too disappointed with where I went. I went in the fifth round (197th overall) and I was the fifth tight end taken. But I was the Bucs' third pick, so that meant a lot.
It's tough watching guys you played against -- and played well against -- go ahead of you. But just look at the draft. The SEC was the conference with the most draft picks. A lot of people in the conference can play. And if you could handle them then, you can handle them now.
Some people may have questioned my size or my speed, but I was never worried about that. I guess Tampa Bay wasn't either. The Bucs organization looks at production. They don't focus on just the 40 times or bench-press numbers. They want people who are winners. That's why they have guys like Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn. And that's why they draft guys like myself and Joe Hamilton. He's is a hell of a quarterback and I can see him making a difference.
There probably aren't too many teams that would have been better fits for me. The Bucs want to use me some at both tight end at H-back. It's real similar to the way the tight end is used in our offense here at Kentucky, so I don't think it will be a problem.
I'm excited because tight end is going to be an important position for the Bucs. I've watched Jackie Harris and Frank Wycheck catch nearly 100 balls under (new Bucs offensive coordinator) Les Steckel's system (in Tennessee). Dave Moore has turned himself in a pretty good tight end in Tampa Bay. Shaun King is a good young quarterback. And playing with Keyshawn Johnson is going to be fun. I'm looking forward to getting to minicamp and working with everybody.
It's nice to have an opportunity to win a Super Bowl ring right away, but it's kind of premature to speak about that. Right now, my focus is just getting into camp in shape and making this team.
Things are a whole lot different now. It's weird because I know that I have something tangible to work toward. I'm working out with a goal in mind. And that's a big relief. Most of the questions have been answered.
Now I just can't wait to get started.