No secret the Buccaneers have had their share of mediocrity when returning the football
It seems almost unbelievable that it took the team 32 years to finally run back a kickoff for a touchdown; no other team has ever been able to be so undoubtedly bad in that department. In case you are wondering, up until that fateful day in 2007 when Michael Spurlock did it on a 90-yard gem. The Bucs had 1,865 chances at crossing the goal line on a kickoff return, and on that day it was finally accomplished, the stadium was stunned for a few seconds before erupting in disbelief. Everyone just kind of looked at the people around them looking for a sign that what they had just witnessed wasn’t wishful thinking.
Since that day in 2007, there have only been three more returns for a touchdown
Since that day, it’s still only happened three times, and the Bucs can still say they are in the last place in the NFL in that category. There are many facets to a football team. The teams that are better than most, in more of those categories, can pretty much count on assured success at a high level. Bruce Arians and Jason Licht are very much aware of this fact. So in the 2020 draft with their 7th round and final pick, chose Ray Calais out of Louisiana.
A happy ending to another great draft from Tampa
The Bucs had to be surprised he was still on the board. Gifted with a 40 time of 4.42 seconds, he’s got the jets for the job. A track star since high school, he was named the Louisiana Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year after winning state in four different categories. In his senior season of college, he was First-Team All-Sunbelt Conference as a kick returner, racking up 541 yards on returns, a 28.5-yard average.
For many years the position hasn’t received much attention in Tampa
The hope is, of course, that Calais will lift the play of that position to dare I say it, but a championship level? Last season, like many others, the Bucs just found a guy on the team with a little speed and capable hands and ran him out there. The thinking has changed a bit this season, with the overall skill level on this team very high. It’s no time to draw straws on the sideline to see who returns kicks. A long kickoff return, especially for a touchdown is a big momentum changer, and can often be the difference in a close game. In a year that the Bucs have a chance to be the first home team in Super Bowl history, they are going to need every weapon possible if they are going to achieve that feat.
There is another option, but not with the same speed
Fellow rookie Ke’shawn Vaughn also has a track team background, but is slower than Calais, earning a 4.51 in the 40. It will all be worked out very soon, but for sure, the Buccaneers have lightning in a bottle with Calais feet near the goal line looking skyward. I’m feeling excited about it, and I can honestly tell you, it’s the very first time. Go Bucs!!