By Tolly Taylor
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t just draft Danny Vitale in the sixth round Saturday.
They drafted Danny Vitale, Superback.
“It sounds like they want to play me as their fullback and as a second tight end as well,” said Vitale, a hybrid “superback” at Northwestern. “That’s what I did in college, so I think they’ll utilize my skill set the way that’ll be a big advantage to them.”
Two rounds earlier, the Green Bay Packers drafted Dean Lowry … but not before calling him about it, according to the Northwestern defensive end.
Thompson: “Tell me why we should draft you right now.”
Lowry: “I’m a workhorse. I have a winner’s mentality. And I want to play for the Packers.”
Thompson: “Good enough. We’re going to draft you.”
Former NFL safety Matt Bowen, now an analyst for ESPN and Bleacher Report, liked where both Northwestern players landed.
“He is going to a great franchise, so he’ll be very well coached,” Bowen said. “(Thompson) is looking for really stout, solid football players. They’re a 3-4 base defense, so he’ll be a rotational guy as a rookie. But they’ll do different things with
him because he does have some upside, some athletic ability.”
“If he contributes on special teams, and I think he will, that’ll be the thing that impresses coaches the most,” Bowen said. “And if he impresses them, they’ll find more ways to get him in the football game. … My biggest thing with him is the versatility he brings. He can play H-back, he can play fullback, he’s nasty at the point of attack, he’s physical.”
Lowry’s versatility also helped. Packers director of player personnel Eliot Wolf told the Packers’ website the team liked that the defensive end could line up inside, too, or even stand up as a rusher.
Lowry was named second-team All-Big Ten as a senior, finishing with 52 tackles, 13 for loss, and three sacks. The 6-foot-6, 296-pounder set a school record with six tackles for loss against Nebraska last season.
The Rockford native said he’s happy to go to Green Bay and that his friends and fellow Bears fans will support him — for two games every year.
Still, he hadn’t seen the Packers coming.
“I really hadn’t talked to them during the process,” Lowry said, “so I was a little surprised.”
For Lowry, who had heard he might go as early as the third round, the waiting to be drafted was tense until he went in the fourth.
Vitale knows the feeling, which lasted until Round 6.
“I was starting to get nervous, but in the end I’m really happy with the selection,” said Vitale, who also was second-team All-Big Ten, with 33 catches for 355 yards and four touchdowns last season. “Every time they (the Bucs) popped up on the bottom of
the screen, my heart started to race. I had a feeling I’d end up there, so I’m really happy they decided to pick me.”
There’s a reason Vitale thought he would land in Tampa Bay. After a private workout in March, he said, Bucs running backs coach Jim Spencer told him he wanted the team to “come and get me.”