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Original Article by: Scott Reynolds via PewterReport.com
Tampa Bay Bucs rookie tight end Antony Auclair was one of the most sought after undrafted free agents by Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht. In fact, the Bucs had a draftable grade on Auclair and were thrilled when he signed with the team because they wanted another “F” tight end – a tight end that could block and catch as opposed to a “Y” tight end like Cameron Brate, who is primarily a receiving tight end. Dirk Koetter’s offense features two- and three-tight end sets quite often, and with veteran Luke Stocker, who is 29, entering his seventh season in the league, finding two tight ends that could block was crucial for the future of the position, which is why Auclair, who is very physical blocker, was signed even though the Bucs spent a first-round pick on tight end O.J. Howard.
Auclair, who has a thick French-Canadian accent, isn’t your typical tight end. He hails from Notre-Dame-des-Pins in Québec, Canada where he played at Laval Université where he caught 17 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Auclair had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown in Laval’s 31-26 win over Calgary in the Vanier Cup, which is the equivalent of the National Championship Game in American college football. While he was ranked as the second overall pick in the Canadian Football League, Auclair always had his sights set on playing in the National Football League.
The Bucs were one of many teams to travel to Canada for his pro day after he opened a lot of eyes at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. in mid-January. Despite a hamstring injury, Auclair ran a 4.82 in the 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times. Now that he’s in Tampa, Auclair has the challenge of quickly learning the game of American football and fighting for a roster spot with Alan Cross and Tevin Westbrook behind Brate, Howard and Stocker on the depth chart. Follow Auclair’s journey into NFL football in Tampa Bay in his Training Camp Diary exclusively on PewterReport.com – and learn to speak French-Canadian, too.
I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO COMPETE WITH THE BEST
By Antony Auclair as told to Scott Reynolds
Salut! Yes, I’m Canadian, but no, I don’t follow hockey and I actually don’t know how to skate. I think I’m messed up! I love football and in the wintertime I would go out and play football in the snow with a couple friends. We would tackle and everything. It’s different because you can tackle in the snow. It was better than the grass.
I had to have a good season at Laval in 2016 so that I could be invited to the East-West Shrine Game. That was a goal, but my goal is always to win the Vanier Cup championship, which I did, and after that I was invited to the East-West Shrine Game. It was different. I was anxious at first with the new rules and style of play, but my first day and the game were my best days. From there a lot of scouts saw me and came over to Québec City for my pro day.
The Buccaneers were there and I did it with a pulled hamstring. I ran a 4.82 in the 40-yard dash with a pulled hamstring. My times were off a little bit. I think I’m more of a 4.7 guy. I move a lot better than what I showed at the pro day. After that I did like 10 visits to the United States, so I didn’t have time to rehab my hamstring properly. Tampa was my best visit and that’s why I came here. They told me I was a good fit and they liked me. I also had a good vibe here, a good feeling with the G.M., Jason Licht, the coaches and everyone. Tampa felt the best and I think you have to go with your feelings. Of course there was a bit of hesitation with O.J. Howard being picked in the first round, but I’ve always wanted to compete with the best. This is not just a one tight end offense. It’s a two-tight end offense and sometimes three.
Being from Canada, it is [expletive] hot down here, man! I pulled a hamstring in OTAs because I was dehydrated. I’ve got to do a better job hydrating. It’s my fourth day out here since we had the two days of rookie camp, so everything is good so far. I’m learning. I’ve had a few mistakes here and there, but I think I’m doing good things too. The point is not to repeat the same mistakes. So I think I’m on the right path.
Today I had a bad drop, but you have to move on to the next play. After that I had good pass protections, some good routes and some good blocks. The pass protection is important. We need to protect the quarterback. If you’re a tight end it’s blocking first, and then catching balls to me.
We had the OTAs and then the rookie mini-camp, so I’ve been studying the playbook all summer, just figuring out things and learning a new game. It’s pretty much the same thing. At the end of the day, football is football. There are some differences like the line of scrimmage, where the D-line lines up, and the routes are deeper and everything. I kind of learned the new rules for the motions because we don’t have rules for the motions in Canada. Everybody could go in motion at any time up there. For me that is the main difference right now.
I like that the Bucs offense features tight ends a lot in the passing game. I get to run routes on certain plays and do run blocks on others. You do it all and that’s what I like about this offense. I’m looking forward to the pads coming on tomorrow. I feel like I can do good things blocking. It is a good part of my game and I’m looking forward to it. It’s hard to decide between whether catching a touchdown or pancaking someone feels better. I think catching a touchdown gets me hyped a little bit more, but pancaking someone, especially the D-line, is very fun.
I’ve been able to connect with some of the others who played in Canada – (wide receiver) Derel Walker and (linebacker) Jeff Knox. Knox is a good friend. He played in Canada and knows a little bit about Canada, so it is cool having him around.
There is also a lot of talent in the tight end room. Cam Brate is one of the best tight ends in the league and Luke is a really good blocker. Alan Cross and Westbrook are good too. They’re all good. I’ve got to pick up some things from those guys and apply it to my game and get better.
These linebackers are fast and it’s different than in Canada and in college. Guys were good up there, but not as fast. Here, the linebackers are big and fast. I’ve got to use my size and my long arms to be physical with them and that is where I’m going to win. As a tight end I’ve looked at a lot of different guys that I model my game after – guys that are good at blocking and at catching. Jason Witten, the guy from Houston, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Luke Stocker is one of them, and Cam Brate is good at blocking, too. I’ve been looking at a lot of guys to pick up the things they are doing and apply it to my game.
Buccaneers fans, I’m a player that is going to play with my heart at all times. Every play I’m going to give 100 percent and it comes directly from my heart. With my accent it is sometimes hard to express myself fully, but I’m getting there.
Auclair’s French-Canadian Word Of The Day
I’m also going to teach you some French-Canadian in my Bucs Training Camp Diary on PewterReport.com. Here’s today’s word – Salut. It’s an informal French greeting, equivalent to saying “Hello” in English.