Stuard confronted arduous highway to be Bucs’ Mr. Irrelevant

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TAMPA, Fla. — Not like many different NFL prospects, former College of Houston linebacker Grant Stuard wasn’t despatched a field of hats for the 2021 NFL draft. The one NFL hat he owned was a classic Tampa Bay Buccaneers hat his father introduced over from Spring, Texas, on Saturday.

“He mentioned one thing simply informed him to seize a hat as a result of he is a hat man,” mentioned Stuard, a first-team All-American Athletic Convention choice. “So he simply grabbed a random hat that he had. He did not know what this was. I did not know what this was.”

It simply so occurred to be the hat of the staff that known as his identify with the 259th total and last choose of the draft, making him this yr’s Mr. Irrelevant.

“When their choose was up and so they have been on the cellphone, he was pointing on the hat,” Stuard mentioned of his dad. “I used to be like, ‘That is simply loopy.’ It was simply by probability.”

Stuard attending to this second wasn’t by probability, nevertheless. The management abilities that led to him being voted a staff captain at Houston have been cultivated at house. Although the 2 have been collectively in Houston for one of the crucial vital days of Stuard’s life, his relationship together with his dad has been marked by ups and downs and absenteeism, and he fought to take care of his siblings.

“My mother is a drug addict. … She used to work within the intercourse business,” Stuard informed ESPN on Saturday night time. “My dad was in jail a very good portion of our younger life. Even when he wasn’t in jail, he was very absent after we have been rising up. That ends in each mother and father being absent the vast majority of the time.”

“It was bouncing from house to house,” Stuard mentioned. “Generally we did not know if there was gonna be meals on the desk. We did not know if the lights have been gonna be on. We did not know what college we have been gonna go to.”

Stuard realized that within the grand scheme of issues, an unsure future within the NFL or being chosen final is nothing in contrast with preventing to outlive. He credit his religion, a village of those that helped increase him and soccer — the one fixed he might flip to each August — for maintaining him on monitor.

“There have been lots of people alongside the best way — plenty of members of the family, plenty of lecturers, plenty of coaches — that deserve worlds of credit score for every thing that they did,” Stuard mentioned. “Whether or not it was bringing a meal, or my Nina paying a invoice. There have been folks in every single place that simply actually gave again to us. In order that’s why I am actually obsessed with giving again with the little issues I do as nicely.”

At his Houston professional day, Stuard raised cash for Heels to Halos, a Christian group that goals to assist ladies who have been concerned with intercourse trafficking. Stuard requested followers to pledge donations for every rep he carried out on the bench press, with a aim of 25 reps. He wound up benching 28 reps, elevating $5,210. He additionally placed on back-to-school drives and toy drives.

“We love him as an individual and, clearly, as a participant,” basic supervisor Jason Licht mentioned Saturday. “He is acquired loads emotion on the sector. He is had just a little little bit of a troublesome life, he is been caring for his siblings. … He is a really mature individual, a really accountable individual and a really accountable soccer participant. Guys that may get by way of robust instances and adversity — that is a giant field to examine for us.”

So is Stuard’s special-teams means, which was a spotlight for the Bucs on Day 3 of the draft. They love his pace, physicality and toughness and consider it’ll translate nicely to their protection models.

“He jogs my memory — that is going manner again — I used to be with the Dolphins after we signed Larry Izzo out of Rice as an undersized linebacker that performed with an enormous coronary heart,” Licht mentioned. “He ended up making an awesome profession for himself as a particular groups linebacker. To not say that we do not suppose Grant has an opportunity to play linebacker — he’ll be [an inside linebacker] for us on the sector — however we predict he is acquired an opportunity to excel as a special-teams ace.”

Stuard mentioned he hopes he can use his platform to assist others going by way of comparable obstacles, notably these with absent mother and father.

As for Stuard’s relationship together with his household, each mother and father have been with him when he acquired the cellphone name from Tampa Bay. His mom even popped in throughout his Buccaneers videoconference with native media.

“My mother … she pops in each every so often,” Stuard mentioned. “My dad is doing a lot better. He positively has improved. His involvement is loads higher. He is changing into extra concerned and he helps my little brother with sports activities and stuff like that.”

Stuard mentioned his main driving drive is being a job mannequin for his siblings. He and his spouse plan to maneuver a minimum of certainly one of his 4 siblings in with them.

“It doesn’t matter what adversity is available in your life, there’s at all times a manner out,” Stuard mentioned. “When you simply preserve working arduous, doing every thing you can and every thing you can management and actually preserve the Lord’s will first in your life, I actually consider that you can be profitable. That is just about the mindset that I’ve daily once I get up, is simply doing every thing with every thing I’ve, as a result of I do know that is the one day that I’ve.”