The Bucs wrapped up the 2017 NFL Draft on Saturday afternoon by adding what Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said was one of his favorite prospects in USC NT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu.
Licht loves Tu’ikolvatu’s size (6-foot-1, 320 pounds) and ability to stop the run, but what he loves most about the Salt Lake City, Utah native is his love of the game desire to keep playing it.
It’s hard not to love that about a player who for two months lived with his wife in a Chevrolet Suburban just to keep his dream of playing college football and perhaps the NFL alive.
“It wasn’t that bad,’’ said Tu’ikolovatu (pronounced Too-ee Kolo Vah-too). “It was an adventure.’’
Tu’ikolovatu spent those two months living in his car because a glitch developed in his attempt to complete his transfer from Utah to USC prior to his final year of college eligibility.
A part-time player at Utah, Tu’ikolovatu was seeking more playing time, but an NCAA rule prevented him from getting the stipend he needed to pay for housing until after the transfer was complete.
Tu’ikolovaut said the difficulties he and his wife faced helped make him a better person and there’s little doubt they made him a better football player.
After starting just two games as a junior at Utah in 2015, Tu’ikolovatu went on to earn All-Pac-12 second team honors as well as the Trojans Defensive Lineman of the Year Award in 2016.
What he brings to the Bucs is more size in the middle of a defensive line that always seem to be in need of it, even after adding Sealver Siliga and Chris Baker over the course of the last year.
The Bucs see Tu’ikolovatu as a potential first- and second-down run stuffer but there probably isn’t room for he and Siliga on the same team so that will be his primary competition for a roster spot.