Gannon became a Pro Bowl quarterback under Gruden's tutelage, and Wheatley, a former first-round pick, finally shed the "bust" label after four nondescript seasons with the New York Giants by rushing for 936 yards and eight touchdowns in 1999 and 1046 yards and nine scores in 2000.
On Thursday, Gruden and the Bucs brought in two discarded running backs whose better playing days still remain at the college level. Tampa Bay worked out former Chicago Bears first-round pick Curtis Enis and former Atlanta Falcons rusher Byron Hanspard.
Enis spent the 1999 season on injured reserve and has had knee and elbow problems since leaving Penn State after the 1997 season. Hanspard had a major knee injury in the 1998 preseason finale which caused him to miss the entire year, and limited his effectiveness the following season. Both were out of football last year.
The Bucs won't sign Enis, but may look at bringing the speedy Hanspard on board to compete for a roster spot. Aaron Stecker is currently the only true tailback on the Bucs' roster. A signing could come as soon as Friday. The Bucs remain interested in free agent Michael Pittman (Arizona), and may still have some interest in Dorsey Levens (Green Bay), and possibly Ricky Watters (Seattle).
Hanspard (5-foot-10, 200) was Atlanta's second-round draft pick (41st overall) in 1997, and played three years with Falcons. In 1997, Hanspard had 53 rushes for 335 yards (6.3 avg.) including a 77-yard jaunt. He also contributed six catches for 53 yards and one touchdown.
He was also one of the Falcons' primary kick returners, returning 40 kicks for 987 yard (24.6 avg.) and two touchdowns, including a 99-yarder.
In 1999, he saw his most significant duty, starting five games and rushing 136 times for 383 yards (2.8 avg.) and one touchdown. He also had 10 catches for 93 yards. Hanspard logged one 100-yard game -- a 102-yard rushing effort against Arizona on December 26.
Atlanta released him the following season and has been out of football ever since.
In college, Hanspard won the Doak Walker Award in 1996, which is given annually to the best running back in the country. He finished his illustrious career at Texas Tech with 4,579 rushing yards, 5,535 all-purpose yards, and 38 rushing touchdowns. The 4,579 rushing yards surpassed Bam Morris and James Gray into the top spot in school record books.
Hanspard's school-record breaking '96 season included rushing for over 200 yards in five straight games, with four coming on consecutive weekends with 272, 214, 224, and 287 yards on the ground. Hanspard was a first-team consensus All-America, and became just the sixth runner in NCAA history to amass 2,000 rushing yards in a season with his 2,084 in 11 games during the 1996 season. The 2,084 was the fifth-best single season mark in college football history, and shattered the previous Texas Tech record of 1,752 held by Morris.
He finished his Red Raider college career with 16 consecutive 100-yard games, while registering 22 100-yard games in his career. Hanspard's 189.4 rushing average per game in '96 was the fifth-best mark ever in a single season by an NCAA runner (Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen, Ed Marinaro, Troy Davis). His all-purpose total of 206.91 a game last season was second only to Troy Davis' mark of 214.91.
Hanspard was a threat to go the distance on any carry, but was also a workhorse back at Texas Tech, logging the ball 28 times or more in seven of his last 11 college games. Click here to sound off on this topic on BucMag.com's message boards.
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