Buccaneers: O.J. Howard says it’s all like a game in the SEC

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Tight end O.J. Howard
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Tight end O.J. Howard /

O.J. Howard is trying to take his new experiences with the Buccaneers and equate them to something he is familiar with.

Entering the NFL for the first time is a shock to the system of most rookies. The rookie class of the Buccaneers is no different. Forget the fact that they are getting paid to play the game for the first time. They have to play against players that are as good as they are, which didn’t happen a lot in college. No more dominating the game simply by stepping out onto the field. They have to learn the speed of the pro game. These players must earn it more than ever before.

When you are a first round pick, it becomes that much harder. There are expectations on first round selections that just aren’t on other players. Our own O.J. Howard falls right into that category. Just because he fell to the Bucs at number 19 doesn’t mean the expectations have fallen off. Howard is expected to team up with Cameron Brate and the rest of the offensive weapons to create a lethal group for Jameis Winston. It’s not easy to join a group with the playoff aspirations the Bucs have.

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How does one deal with these expectations? For Howard, you keep it familiar.

We know that he went to Alabama, a member of the SEC. He played a lot of big games under the leadership of Nick Saban. The NFL may be new to O.J. Howard, but pressure-filled, big-time football is very familiar to the first-year tight end.

So for Howard, the idea is to keep from getting bogged down by keeping it real for himself. He does that my associating his new team to his past one (per team media website):

"“I would say mostly mental, just knowing the little things. In the NFL, every guy is really good. Like Coach said earlier, it’s like the Alabama-LSU matchup every day. That’s exactly what it is – it’s an SEC game every day for me. There are no non-conference games. Everybody’s good, you have to have great technique and know it’s more mental than anything.”"

It might sound odd to say at first, but the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. Howard is walking into a situation where all of the players are exceptional. One of the reasons the game feels faster is because there aren’t the open holes in defenses that there were in college. The players are faster and more talented.

Where did Howard face the best players he has seen in his career so far? In SEC games. The players were more than a leg up on the competition from outside the conference. So, to help him feel comfortable, it makes perfect sense to associate his new opponents with the toughest he has previously faced.

Howard is already learning a thing or two:

"“I would say just always doing the little things right as a pro, as far as studying the little details. The route-running, run-blocking in the run games – I think the little things can add up to be a positive or, vice versa, they can add up to be a big negative. I think the little things are the most important thing that I’ve noticed so far.”"

Looks like Howard is already on the right path.

Next: Time to establish chemistry at Bucs camp

If it keeps going, things will be very exciting at One Buc Place.