Tampa Bay didn’t become the first Florida team to call offensive lineman Robert Hainsey about playing football when the Buccaneers drafted him. That first call came from Florida powerhouse IMG Academy six years ago unexpectedly when he played high school football in Pittsburgh.
“I was a bit shocked. I didn’t know how to take that,” Hainsey said in a press conference on Friday after the Bucs took him with the 95th pick. “I went down and saw it with my parents, and for me, I just thought at the time, I was a junior in high school, I had high goals, I had high expectations for myself to get to pretty much where I’m at right now and everything in between.”
“I just thought if those are things I really want to do and am really committed, this is something I’ve got to do and take this next step,” Hainsey added.
That next step eventually led him back to the same area in Florida where his football career took off. The Bucs added Hainsey, a 6-4, 290-pound right tackle from Notre Dame with the 95th pick in the draft.
“It’s a great honor to get to play with some of those players,” Hainsey said. “I’ve worked for a long time to get here, so I’m really excited for this part and to take the next step with Tampa Bay.”
“I’m going to learn from them,” Hainsey added.
Hainsey gives the Bucs more depth and versatility to protect quarterback Tom Brady. The Bucs return all starters on the line but lost backup offensive lineman Joe Haeg in free agency.
Hainsey played right tackle for the Fighting Irish, but the The Athletic’s Greg Auman and Dane Brugler noted that Hainsey can easily play other positions on the line if needed. Auman sees the need for the Bucs at backup center.
“I think it’s a hug advantage for me,” Hainsey said about his versatility.
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To Florida and Back
Hainsey’s first big step at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, put him on the national college recruiting map as the top-ranked guard by ESPN in the 2017 class. He helped IMG Academy go 11-0 in 2016, outscoring opponents 401-104 and achieving a No. 3 national ranking with MaxPreps. Though he lived in the greater Tampa Bay area, he said he never made it to a Bucs game.
“I don’t know how well I’ll still know it, but I stuck around it a little bit, but it’s pretty cool to be going back down that way,” Hainsey said on Friday.
Hainsey then left Florida to play four seasons at Notre Dame and help the Irish make the College Football Playoff twice in 2018 and 2020. He made the All-ACC second team in 2020 and was a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which goes to the top player nationally in the areas of on-field performance, academics, and community service. He’s one of three Irish linemen expected to go in the draft.
“It’s an honor,” Hainsey said. “I’m so happy to see Liam (Eichenberg) go, see (Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah) go, and I can’t wait to see Tommy (Kraemer) go. It’s been an absolute thrill working with them, and cannot wait to see where those guys’ careers go as well. It’s a very exciting time.”
Joining the Crew
Hainsey plans to take his hard-working approach back to Florida and help the Bucs wherever he’s called upon.
“I don’t know what the coaches’ plans are for me yet, but whatever they ask me, I’ll certainly put my best foot forward and do everything I can to improve,” Hainsey told the media. “I think that’s going to be big for me like I’ve kind of mentioned before, just consistency every day, doing what I’ve always done to the best of my ability, doing my job, and doing what’s required to help the Bucs win.”
“You’ve always got to play with an edge and just do everything you can to move the guy across from you,” Hainsey added about his blocking style. “But at the end of the day, it’s about doing your job and not letting down those other four guys on that unit with you on the field.”
It’s nothing new for Hainsey, who did that four years earlier as a burgeoning prep star in Florida.
“I’m going to just be myself. Be the same guy in everything I’ve always done. Come in with my work ethic I use every day to keep getting better technique-wise,” Hainsey said.
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