By Max Luckan
Lavonte David, LB, #54
Weight: 233 lbs.
Hometown: Miami, Florida
There aren’t many rookie linebackers that stand out in the NFL because of all the great veterans that play the position, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David definitely does. David has been the most consistent linebacker for the Bucs so far, topping the play of second-year man Mason Foster and veteran Quincy Black. David has played in, and started, every game this season, and was also chosen to call the signals on defense, which is a rare honor for a rookie, but head coach Greg Schiano has repeatedly stated that David is “up to it.”
Born in Miami, Florida, David attended Northwestern High School, where he was teammates with cornerback Anthony Gaitor, who is also currently on the Bucs roster. David was not heavily recruited out of high school and was only rated as a two-star prospect out of five possible stars.
At first, David signed with Middle Tennessee State, but then opted to go to community college instead before finally transferring to Nebraska, where he became a well-known linebacker and one of the best in the country.
At Nebraska, David set the school’s single-season record for tackles with an astonishing 152. Nebraska is known for their defense, so that is quite an accomplishment given their history. He was also named First-team All-Big Ten in 2011.
The Bucs selected David in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft with the 58th overall pick. David’s draft stock really slipped because many scouts thought he was undersized for a linebacker and also lacked some of the intangibles to play the position. However, that didn’t stop the Bucs from drafting him with the third pick of their draft class, and so far that has worked out well, as David currently has 81 tackles and has done an excellent job calling plays as a rookie. He’s also become one of the leaders on a young, talented defensive squad.
NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport classified David as “smart, fast, and responsible for a lot. Undersized, but (he has) a great football IQ.” He also said that David’s play reminds him of the “old-school Bucs,” who were very physical on defense and also extremely quick. While David may be undersized, and that’s even debatable, he certainly makes up for that with his speed. He ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at the combine, and is a very sure tackler. And as Rapoport states, David is very precocious in terms of his knowledge and understanding of the game. One knock on David, however, has been his inability to fight off blocks, which is evident on tape, but can definitely be improved over time.
Many have compared David to Derrick Brooks, a former linebacker for the Bucs and a surefire Hall-of-Famer, because they are similar in size and play styles. Of course, David hasn’t even played a full season yet, but those comparisons aren’t entirely unwarranted. Still, a comparison to Brooks at this point is premature this early in David’s career.
For the time being, David seems to be a perfect fit in Tampa with the Bucs, as he’s evolved into a reliable player on a defense that is still very young and raw in terms of potential.
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.