Tampa Bay Lands S Jermaine Phillips In Fifth Round

April 21 - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their fifth round draft pick to select University of Georgia safety Jermaine Phillips. He is expected to compete with David Gibson for the right to back up John Lynch.

With their fifth pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, Tampa Bay selected Georgia safety Jermaine Philips. Safety was one of the positions that the Bucs wanted to address in the draft, and Phillips joins the likes of strong safeties John Lynch and David Gibson, in addition to free safeties Dexter Jackson and John Howell. While the safety positions in Tampa Bay are basically interchangeable, Phillips will likely compete with Gibson for the rights to backup Lynch.

"He's (Phillips') is a big safety-man at the University of Georgia," said Coach Gruden. "He's a guy who went to school as a receiver. He really caught our eye at Senior Bowl with his workouts. Very intriguing prospect and he'll start his career at the free safety position here in Tampa but we're excited to add another very good prospect to our team."

Phillips (6-foot-1, 218) is a tremendous athletic prospect with a muscular physique and is known as a big hitter. He played the rover safety, and the Bulldogs usually played him close to the line of scrimmage or would walk him down into the box much like Tampa Bay does with Lynch.

"It's a dream come true," Phillips said when asked about being the newest Buccaneer. "To be able to come in and learn under a safety like John Lynch is a dream. Hopefully they can take me under their wing and just teach me the ways of the league. It's an exciting time.

"I think I can play both (safety positions). I don't think my strength is in one rather than the other. I think I can play them both easily. I guess there's still a lot for me to learn."

Phillips has played receiver in the past and has good hands. He hauled in 18 catches for 235 yards and one touchdown in 1999. After moving to defense in 2000, he finished his Georgia career with five interceptions, including three as a senior.

But Phillips is a big tackler who is aggressive in run support. He notched 80 tackles as a senior and 85 stops as a junior, finishing with 181 total stops. He also forced six fumbles and had 14 pass breakups. But like Lynch, he's not a gifted cover man, especially in man-to-man situations. However, he does have good instincts and reacts quickly to the ball once it is in the air.

"Playing strong safety, you have to box for it," said Phillips. "You have to be physical and more aggressive. That's something I like to do. I like the contact and I like to hit. At free safety, you're doing more roaming and just playing center field. That's something I like to do as well. I just like to make the big hit when the ball is in the air."

He ended his college career in style against Boston College in the Music City Bowl with a team-high 12 tackles and a forced fumble. One of Williams' top efforts came during his senior campaign against Mississippi when he picked off an Eli Manning pass and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown in addition to his three tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

"They're (the fans) are going to get a safety that goes non-stop," said Phillips. "I just go hard every play and I'm somebody that's very approachable and willing to learn."

He is known for his leadership skills and is viewed as a consumate team player. Phillips will be expected to make an immediate impact on special teams.

"Special teams is something I love to do," said Phillips. "I've been playing special teams since I started playing college football. Even last year when I was starting at safety, I played on every special teams (play). So, that's something I love to do and can't wait to do. I just try to blow them (punt and kick returners) up. I love to do that."

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