By Jeff Berlinicke
The year was 2002 and Ryan Nece had already gone from undrafted free agent to Super Bowl starter.
It's been a roller coaster ride for Nece, one of the unsung heroes of the defense, a special teams player who keeps his roster spot with grit and determination. He's not the fastest, strongest, or biggest, but when it comes to work ethic, Nece seems to find a way to stick around.
After the 2003 season, Nece was back on the bench except for special teams play and the occasional situation. Now, two years later, Nece is back in the starting lineup after incumbent Jeff Gooch went down with a severe calf pull.
It's been a long journey for Nece and his situation is tenuous at best, but he plans to make the best of his lucky break.
"I'm excited for the chance to start again,'' Nece said at the end of training camp. "I fought for the job, lost it, and now because of Jeff's bad break, I get another chance. I just have to play my best and not worry about making a big play or making mistakes.''
Gooch spent the past two seasons with the Detroit Lions, playing mostly as a special teams player, but came back to the Bucs as a free agent with a starting job.
Nece was sixth on the team ion tackles in 2003, but lost his starting job to Dwayne Rudd. Last season Ian Gold played the position, but left for the Denver Broncos giving Gooch the job.
Even after all of the shuffling since 2003, it still wasn't clear that Nece would get the job after Gooch went down. The team contemplated moving Shelton Quarles over to fill Gooch's position and starting rookie Barrett Ruud, but decided to go with Nece.
Nece knows his job is shaky at best.
"I'm excited to get a chance to start again,'' Nece said. "That's why you play the game, but I can't be thinking about anything except doing my best in the next game. It's unfortunate that I am starting because someone got hurt, but I'll do the best I can.''
One Game At A Time For Nece
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