Tampa Bay Uses Final Pick To Land CB/KR Cox

April 27 - Tampa Bay used its final pick of the 2003 NFL Draft to address two different positions. With its sixth-round pick, the Buccaneers selected Pittsburgh cornerback/kick returner Torrie Cox.

Tampa Bay managed to add depth and competition to two different positions with its last pick of the 2003 NFL Draft when the team used its sixth-round pick to select Pittsburgh cornerback/kick returner Torrie Cox.

"I'm feeling so blessed right now," Cox said after he was drafted. "I thank the whole Tampa Bay staff and the whole organization right now. They got a good player. They got one of the best players out of the draft. It feels good to come play for the Super Bowl champs. Let's go for round two."

While the 5-foot-9, 181-pound Cox is a bit undersized, he's a physical corner who is more than willing to support the run, which is a trait a corner must possess in order to secure a spot on Tampa Bay's 53-man roster.

"I like their system," Cox said of the Bucs. "Their whole defense comes and they hit. All I can do is play how I've been playing my whole life, and that's hard work and playing hard-nosed football. Wherever I fit in there, I fit in. I'm just coming to help them go for round two."

While the Bucs went in to this year's draft with no "needs", the team did target the cornerback position. The team recently announced it would give nickel corner Dwight Smith a shot to win the starting free safety position this season, and if he does, his switch to safety would leave the Bucs with hole to fill at the nickel cornerback spot.

Despite his rookie status, the Bucs feel Cox could win the competition for the nickel cornerback spot if Smith does indeed move to safety.

"With the corners we have on this roster and Dwight Smith apparently moving to safety, we'll see how permanent that becomes in the next couple of weeks, we would have a void created by that move," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "We hope Tim Wansley can fill that void (at nickel corner). Corey Ivy is a valuable member of our special teams and obviously Torrie Cox will compete for the void of Dwight Smith should he move inside."

Starters Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly are locks to make the team, and backups Corey Ivy and Tim Wansley have an instant edge over Cox due to their experience. Cox said playing with Tampa Bay's veteran cornerbacks could help him secure a roster spot as a rookie.

"I'm just coming in to learn," said Cox. "There are older guys that have more experience than I do, so they can teach me. If they are willing to teach me, I am willing to learn. I'm coming in to play football, and wherever I fit in, I fit in. I want to be the next great one just like them. I'm just following behind a lot of guys' footsteps, and I am going to keep on rolling with that."

Cox has average speed but still possesses good coverage skills and tackling ability. As a senior, Cox earned a All-Big East Conference first-team selection by notching a career-high 82 tackles and two interceptions.

"He's our type of corner in the sense he is a quick guy, has very good ball skills, is a tough kid, contributed on special teams there and looks like he would be a very good special teams player," said Bucs general manager Rich McKay. "That was kind of our thought on the player. At corner for us, we are not as concerned with size as we are with toughness and tackling ability and ball awareness, which he has. And, we had to pick a player that could contribute on special teams, so he kind of fit that pick at the time."

He started 24 of the 42 games he played in for the Panthers and finished his college career with 156 tackles, 28 pass deflections, three fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

Those stats along with his attributes made Tampa Bay's decision to draft Cox an easy one.

In addition to playing corner, Cox made a huge impact on special teams at Pittsburgh. A three-time special teams captain for the Panthers, Cox earned Pittsburgh's special teams MVP honor each of the last three years.

Cox handled kickoff return duties at Pittsburgh as well. He returned 65 kickoffs and averaged 24.2 yards per attempt. While Cox obviously has the ability to compete with Bucs kickoff return man Aaron Stecker, the team didn't draft him for that sole purpose.

"We didn't draft him for that," said McKay. "He's done it, but we did not draft him for that. We'll give him that chance. We can potentially downstream in a month or two. We could add somebody else if we are not comfortable where that is, but right now we are comfortable and have enough guys who can compete for the returner position. We don't have anybody that will do both, but he'll get a chance."

Cox would have been drafted earlier than the sixth round but his stock dropped after he was flagged by the NFL for having a diluted urine test, which showed up as a masking agent for drugs. Cox denied the NFL's accusation and attributed the positive test to excessive water intake.

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