TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked like they had the best wide receiver room in the NFL. But now, Chris Godwin is out with a season-ending injury and Antonio Brown is no longer with the team.
The Bucs need someone to step up. That someone could be a receiver that never played a down of college football.
Cyril Grayson is one of the most decorated relay runners in LSU track and field history. He finished his career as a four-time NCAA champion and seven-time All-American.
“He came to LSU on a track scholarship,” LSU track coach Dennis Shaver told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “Football never really recognized his talents while he was here to recruit him away from us and put them on their roster for football.”
Grayson was considered a long sprinter, mostly competing in 400-meter relays.
“We do a lot of speed, endurance and sprint work,” Shaver said. “He was always someone that was eager to learn and eager to contribute. Quite honestly, he’s one of the most self-disciplined that we’ve had on our team.”
Prior to the NFL, Grayson last played in a football game in high school in 2011. After his final track and field season, he was invited to LSU’s pro day where he impressed scouts in the 40-yard dash. He was later signed by the Seattle Seahawks.
“It’s probably a little bit of a risk for the NFL to take someone like that and give them the opportunity,” Shaver admitted.
It was a shaky start for Grayson bouncing around six different practice squads before landing in Tampa Bay in 2019.
“He would be on a practice squad, be rejected, eventually you stick in there long enough, learn a little bit more,” Shaver said. “That’s part of the process; having not played in college. You needed some of those type of things to sharpen your skillset.”
With a decimated Bucs wide receiving room, Grayson has the opportunity and he has taken full advantage. He caught his first touchdown, a 50-yard pass against the New Orleans Saints. Last Sunday against the New York Jets, he stepped up for a six-catch, 81-yard performance that included making the game-winning touchdown after Brown left the team mid-game.
“He’s a clutch kind of guy,” Shaver said. “When things are tight he’s a guy you can count on.”
Grayson has built that trust with quarterback Tom Brady.
“A couple of weeks ago I asked Tom about Cyril,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said after the Jets win. “He said ‘I trust him. Put him in there.’”
“I noticed after the game they interviewed Rob Gronkowski (on the FOX broadcast) and he was talking about Cyril,” Shaver said. “We’re all watching.”
“Just give it up for Cyril Grayson right there,” Gronkowski said on the broadcast. “What a play. He stepped up big time for us the last two games so, I just want to give my hat off for him always working hard in practice. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team and a great dude too.”
“It’s really a fun thing for us at LSU, particularly for us in track and field who produced this guy to be a wide receiver that Brady could throw to,” Shaver said.
The Bucs will play the regular-season finale Sunday at 4:25 p.m. against the Carolina Panthers.