Lott's LB son rookie standout
By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 4, 2002
LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Perhaps the Bucs' most impressive rookie in the first week of training camp is a player who wasn't among this year's 250-plus draft picks: free-agent linebacker Ryan Nece, who signed with Tampa Bay out of UCLA.
Nece, the son of Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, showed some of his father's legendary hard hitting, upending fellow rookie Travis Stephens Saturday. In six days, he's made an impression on his coaches.
"Ryan Nece's come on a lot," coach Jon Gruden said. "He's made a lot of athletic plays, showing up in pads and making some physical plays."
Nece, who started 32 consecutive games at UCLA and finished with 10 career sacks, is listed higher on the depth chart than any other rookie. He's a top backup at outside linebacker, and Gruden said the key to his making the regular-season roster is simple: "He's got to do what he's been doing, which is go out and execute our defense. He's also kind of flourished on special teams. He, right now, has been at the forefront of a lot of people. He's a guy who's really caught our eye, athletically and explosively on this football field. We're hoping for more of that from Ryan Nece."
For the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Nece, this camp is his first real taste of the NFL. Stories from his father are one thing, donning pads and lining up with All-Pros is another.
"I was bright-eyed the whole week," Nece, 23, said. "Every day was a day I'd never lived, never experienced. It's a great feeling."
Nece was contacted by several teams but chose Tampa Bay for two reasons: a reputation for defense and a shortage of linebackers that gave him his best chance to earn a roster spot.
"I felt this was my best opportunity to play at this level," Nece said. "And if I can play with defense, it's a great defense to play with. There are a lot of people I can learn from and make me a better player."
Nece said there isn't any one player who has taken him under his wing.
"Everyone's giving me bits and pieces," Nece said. "John Lynch is telling me today how to read a quick snap, Derrick Brooks is showing me how to use my hands, Shelton Quarles tells me how I need to stay low. You pick up a lot, but that's what separates the veterans from the rookies: they already know all of that."
-- Times staff writer Roger Mills contributed to this report.
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