Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs WR Spurlock ready to move past historic return
TAMPA - Buccaneers receiver Micheal Spurlock is known for one thing. Spurlock is the guy who made Bucs history. He became the first Tampa Bay player to return a kickoff for a touchdown, a 90-yarder against Atlanta in 2007. Most Bucs fans vividly remember Spurlock's return and can still hear radio announcer Gene Deckerhoff screaming "Run, Micheal, run." Tampa Bay plays against Houston in the preseason finale on Thursday and his main goal is to put that historic run behind him. "I'm tired of talking about it," Spurlock said. "It's a great thing. I'm happy I was the first to do it, but it's old. I got to make new memories and give people something else to talk about."Spurlock's versatility has Bucs coaches talking about him this preseason. Tampa Bay likely will keep receivers Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Maurice Stovall, Reggie Brown and Sammie Stroughter on this year's team. Spurlock is in competition with Michael Clayton for a possible sixth receiver spot, while the Bucs likely will try to sneak Preston Parker and Terrence Nunn onto their practice squad. What might work in Spurlock's favor is his ability to play quarterback. Spurlock played 21 games as a quarterback and running back at Mississippi. The Bucs lined up Spurlock in a wildcat formation against Jacksonville last week, but the play was never executed because of a penalty. If Tampa Bay elects to keep Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson on its active roster, while placing Rudy Carpenter on the practice squad, Spurlock could be the Bucs' emergency quarterback on game day. "Everybody is trying to maximize their roster because of the limited roster size," Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "The more you can do, it's a plus. It shows he can learn multiple positions and do multiple things and gives him an opportunity to make the team. "Depending on what we do at our quarterback situation, if you're a team that only carries two quarterbacks, he'd be a guy that would have to learn how to take some snaps and finish out a game for us. I'm not saying we're going two quarterbacks, but he's a guy at the receiver position who might able to do some things with the wildcat. He's a versatile player." Spurlock has been versatile by necessity. Since making the run in 2007, he was placed on Tampa Bay's practice squad the following year after returner Clifton Smith emerged. Spurlock was released by Tampa Bay and played four games with San Francisco last year before being let go. After no NFL team called, Spurlock signed with the United Football League's Florida Tuskers. "I love the UFL, but for guys to be like I can do this for the next six years, it was like 'no' to me," Spurlock said. "You don't really know how privileged you are just to go onto the runway and get on the plane, or have a nice hotel. It was an eye-opener. It humbled me a whole lot." Once Spurlock's UFL season ended, he returned to Mississippi last December. Spurlock promised his wife they would spend Christmas together since he missed Thanksgiving because of the Tuskers. He assumed an NFL team would sign him in early in 2010, but Spurlock's mother kept telling him to stay in shape because she believed Tampa Bay would call. Following the funeral of his wife's aunt last December, Spurlock received a phone call from an unfamiliar Tampa number. "My phone rings and I see it's an 813 number," Spurlock said. "I'm thinking everyone who lives in 813 I got their number. I wasn't going to answer it, but I answered the phone and it was (former Bucs director of pro personnel) Doug Williams. "He was like 'What do you think about coming to be a Buccaneer?' I told him don't play with me. What do I have to do? It just went from there." Spurlock was signed on Dec. 22 after Sammie Stroughter was placed on injured reserve, leaving Tampa Bay without a kick returner since Smith was already on IR. He responded by returning a punt 77 yards for a touchdown against New Orleans five days later, which helped Tampa Bay pull off a 20-17 overtime victory. Now Spurlock is fighting to make this year's roster. "He's quiet. He goes about his business," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "He played quarterback in college. He can throw the football. He's one of the greatest kids to be around on our football team and those are the type of people you want to be around. Those are the types of people who help your team develop. "He makes it difficult every day when you go in that room and see who you're going to play because they're fighting." Spurlock has more incentive this year to fight because he is no longer practice squad eligible. If Spurlock does not make the 53-man roster, he will be released. He loves the challenge of becoming an NFL receiver. Spurlock just wants to be known for more than one thing. "Every day I go out I try to put that (kickoff return) behind me," Spurlock said. "Don't look at me that way, but look at me as a complete football player. That's my goal and that's what I try to prove to my coaches, my teammates, everybody."
Anwar S. Richardson can be reached at (813) 259-8425.