Culbreath: Football Camps OverviewWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As NFL, college, and even high school football camps march forward, I’ve been keeping my eye on a few names in the bigs with local ties. Bernard Reedy is wowing them in Atlanta, Jayrone Elliot is doing things in Green Bay, and David Fluellen is having some fun in Philly.
But a name popped up this week that made me smile bigger than I have in a long time: T.J. Fatinikun was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now, it doesn’t mean he’s made the team headed into the season, but at least he has a shot.
Seeing his name come across the wire took me back to 2006. We used to do a High School Football Scoreboard Show on WSPD (with the unflappaple Jim Heller as host), and I was one of 5 or 6 stringers that would go out to games across the region and phone in reports. For a while, I ended up at Clay High School regularly, but for this week, I was sent to Steinecker Stadium. And who was lighting it up that night but a sophomore with a name I very likely mispronounced in my first report of the night. TJ was all over the field that night, and he ended that year with 73 tackles, 15 for a loss, and 10 friggin’ sacks. I’m pretty sure I said to myself that night “That kid is definitely playing on Saturdays.”
So imagine my surprise when he ends up wearing the Midnight Blue and Gold in 2009. And he immediately contributed: his sophomore year, he led the team with 13 tackles for a loss, and was third in the MAC with 4 forced fumbles, earning him a spot on the third team All-MAC squad. The injury bug would hit him his junior year, when he injured his elbow in early October. But his contributions up to that point were still enough to get him named third-team All-MAC again.
In what should have been a breakout senior season for TJ, instead another injury. This time, a torn Achilles tendon ended his season in October again, and his college career ended with it. He would lobby the NCAA for a medical hardship redshirt, but would be turned down.
Still, not one to back down, TJ found his way onto the playing field after college: making time in the Arena League in 2014 with both Orlando and Portland. He certainly made the most of his time there: combining for 20 tackles and 3 sacks in 11 games between the two teams. Now that all’s left for the Arena League is their championship game (being played in, wait for it, Cleveland of all places), TJ went looking for work, and found it in Tampa. And what luck, former Rockets teammate Eric Page is already there!
No, nothing is a guarantee for any of these names. For TJ, it might be a “Last In, First Out” situation. Bernard Reedy might just miss out on the 52-man roster. Zac Kerin might not cut the mustard in Minnesota (it’s incredibly hard to get news on offensive linemen, by the way.) But seeing these guys get the chance is an incredible pleasure. For guys like Fatinikun, being able to see it from that cramped press box at Steinecker Stadium, it’s been a privilege.
Tags: All-Mac squad, Arena League, Atlanta, Bernard Reedy, Clay High School, Cleveland, college, David Fluellen, football, Green Bay, high school, High School Football Scoreboard Show, Jayrone Elliot, Jim Heller, MAC, Minnesota, NCAA, NFL, Orlando, Philly, Portland, redshirt, Steinecker Stadium, T.J. Fatinkun, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, WSPD