Bucs like Black's versatility

Lakeland High School graduate, Ahmad Black, now with the University of Florida Gators, works campers through drills during the 19th Annual Wayne Gandy football Camp held Saturday at Cook Field in Haines City. (Paul Crate/Lakeland Ledger)

News Chief
Published: Monday, May 2, 2011 at 9:58 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 2, 2011 at 9:58 a.m.

TAMPA -- Ahmad Black didn't go around telling people he wanted to be drafted by the Bucs. He knew the odds were against it.

"This is a blessing," the safety from Lakeland said Saturday after the Bucs drafted him in the fifth round. "A lot of people have asked me where I wanted to go, and Tampa was always my first pick. That's my favorite team. I didn't really want to say I just want Tampa because there was always a chance I would go somewhere else."

An All-SEC first-teamer at Florida, Black will begin his NFL career down the road at Raymond James Stadium, where he was named most valuable player of the Outback Bowl four months ago.

"I grew up a Buccaneer fan. I came out the womb Buccaneers," he said. "My aunt (Sabrina Valdez-Collins) cheered for the Bucs for about 10 years and now still works with the cheerleaders."

If he wasn't born to be a Buc, Black has some credentials to be an NFL player, having played on national championship teams in high school (Lakeland, 2006) and college (Florida, 2008). His 13 interceptions rank 13th in Gator history, and only three players in SEC history have returned interceptions for more yards (392).

Now he is back in the position of having to prove himself.

"It's been a long couple days," he said. "Coming off the last couple years down at Florida, I thought I'd be picked a little bit earlier. A few things set me back a little bit, I guess the measurables (Black is 5-foot-9, 184 pounds, and runs a 4.7 40-yard dash). At the end of the day I just wanted a chance."

The Bucs will give him one - at safety, on special teams and perhaps occasionally at cornerback.

"He's always produced. He's always been able to battle above some of the limitations that people have always thought he had," said general manager Mark Dominik. "For him to be there in the fifth round, that's the type of guy we want to bring on this football team."

Black played the corner as a freshman at Florida before being moved back to strong safety, where he started 39 games in three years.

"I played safety all through high school, and when I got to Florida it was the same thing a lot of teams are saying now -- I'm a little undersized," he said. "It's understandable, but I try to play what I've learned to play, and now that's safety.

“I can play corner if a team needs me to play that. But I think with the scheme we had then a Florida, safety was a better fit for me."

Raheem Morris isn't too eager to label him.

"He is a safety that has the ability to play corner, similar to Cody (Grimm) and Tanard (Jackson), hybrid athletes that can do multiple things because of their instincts and awareness," said the Bucs coach.

The last time he played, Black intercepted two passes in Florida's Outback Bowl victory over Penn State, returning one 80 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.

"It was a great way to close my career and to close coach (Urban) Meyer's coaching career," he said. "To go out that way was really strong. I had a lot of fun playing in that stadium, and I felt like I'll be playing there in the future."

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