On October 24th, 1993, a 39-year-old Steve DeBerg became the oldest player in the history of the franchise. On the other end of the timeline, can you name the youngest player ever deployed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
In 1997, with hopes of energizing one of the league’s poorest offenses, head coach Tony Dungy drafted 20-year-old Gator Reidel Anthony midway through the first round. The skinny receiver was college football’s most devastating deep threat in 1996; his 18 yards per reception and 18 touchdown catches carried the University of Florida to a National Championship and earned Anthony All-American honors as a junior, and Tampa Bay looked to use his speed to soften defenses for rookie runner Warrick Dunn.
The season kicked off against the San Francisco 49ers. After six minutes and a blocked field goal, the Tampa Bay offense took over at the 41 yard line, and across from receiver Horace Copeland, the 20-year, 315-day-old Reidel Anthony succeeded 1987 running back Charles Gladman as the youngest Buccaneer to ever take the field. Three weeks later, Anthony became the youngest player in NFL history to catch a touchdown (and the third-youngest to cross the goal line).
His career floundered after a promising sophomore campaign, and Tony Dungy never built the offense he envisioned. Neither man was a Buccaneer after the 2001 season. But Anthony’s early successes are almost unprecedented in professional football; he was the ninth-youngest player of the modern era. None of the other eight, so far, have survived more than five seasons with the team that drafted them.