On Thursday, LB Lavonte David became the first Buccaneer ever to win an NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month award. David took the award for his efforts in the month of December, but truth be told, he hasn’t really felt like a rookie since September.
“The vets have told me I’m not a rookie anymore,” he said. “Once you get on the field, they say, ‘Hey, all that rookie junk is gone. You’re a man now, you’ve got to handle your business.’ And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
David led the NFL with 47 tackles in November, five of which came behind the line of scrimmage. Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan could have picked David for the award without even seeing those numbers, however. According to Sheridan, the most impressive part about David’s game so far is how seamlessly he has taken over the job of defensive play-calling.
“I think probably the most pleasant surprise is the fact that he’s been able to handle all the mental stuff,” said Sheridan. “We all thought he was going to be a fantastic player but you never know until you get him in your system if he can handle it and make calls at the line of scrimmage and notify offensive formations and backfield sets and that kind of stuff. I’m not shocked that he was doing it but you never know until you put him in the system, and he’s done a fantastic job in that area, outside of being a fantastic player, which he is.”
For his part, David shared the credit for the smoothness of his on-field leadership with his teammates, saying he’s had plenty of help along the way. He never doubted he could handle the play-calling duties, however, having done the same thing at Nebraska. He figures he convinced the Bucs’ coaches and scouts of his strong mental makeup before the draft.
“I think they feel I’m a very mature and responsible guy,” he said. “I had that same responsibility in college and they thought I could turn it over to this level. I’ve been really working on that, and guys have been helping me since Day One.
“It’s just studying, knowing what you’ve got to do, knowing what the guys are doing around you. That makes you play your game faster. It’s breaking down opponents and stuff like that. All of that ties together and I think I’ve been doing a good job of that. Guys are still helping me. Everybody’s working together at it and it’s just working out.”