Monday, March 29, 2010

From hometown kid to nationwide hero

GREENVILLE — Michael Spurlock was a human highlight reel while playing nearly every sport imaginable at Gentry High, before accepting a scholarship to Ole Miss to play with the likes of Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning and Clarksdale High standout Terrence Metcalf.
The once highly touted recruit broke several Mississippi high school passing records while at GHS and undoubtedly made his mark as one of the most prolific athletes to come through the small town of roughly 11,000.
But being the best in Indianola wasn't enough for the now 27-year-old.
He wanted more.
And after four years in Oxford and a year with the Arizona Cardinals after signing as an undrafted free agent, Spurlock took center stage on December 16, 2007 when he became the first player in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history to return a kickoff for a touchdown in a regular season game.
The 90-yard score was the first in Tampa's 32-year history and gave the Delta native the highlight he had been searching for since entering the league in 2006.
Spurlock then repeated the remarkable performance in Dec. 2009, after returning to Tampa Bay following a brief stint with the San Francisco 49ers, when he took back a punt return for a touchdown to ignite a 20-17 victory over the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
"They always tell you, you're only as good as your last play - so I think it was a pretty good play," said Spurlock, who was in town last Saturday for the Delta Area Youth Football Camp. "But at the same time, I want to make many, many more - so you can have more than just two to pick from. You can have a whole roll of them."
"It's a blessing going from sitting on the couch watching guys play and now you're on TV," he added. "And a lot of guys didn't know I was back with the Bucs until that Sunday."
Spurlock, who said he reports to camp March 29, is entering his fifth year in the NFL and the final year of a two-year deal with the Bucs.
"(March 29) is when the metal meets the road," he said. "Everybody is fighting for their position, just trying to be on the 53-man roster. And I'm one of those guys, so I'm going to work my hardest and see what happens."
And the Ole Miss alum knows a thing or two about hard work. Although Spurlock never returned a kick in college, he didn't hesitate to make the transition.
"I was telling the guys earlier that I never played the position until I got to the NFL. So everything went fast forward for me," said the former college quarterback and now NFL receiver. "I had to learn quickly and make plays faster than most guys."
After playing for three NFL teams and a short period in the United Football League (UFL), Spurlock hopes to have found a place to call home.
"It's close to home," said Spurlock. "I'll tell anybody, they all pay. As long as you have a job, that's a good job. If it's up to me, I would love to be a Buc.
Hopefully, I'll be a Buc for life."
After beginning the 2009 season a dismal 0-7, the Buccaneers won two of their last three games. Now, Spurlock hopes his team can pick up where they left off in 2010. And if history repeats itself, Tampa Bay may be in good shape.
"Tampa is the perfect fit. It's a young team and we're up-and-coming," said Spurlock. "We had a bad season last year, but we're yet to see. Every time a team ends up at the bottom of the (NFC) South, they end up winning the (conference). So, the Saints won the season; hopefully, ya'll will see us in Dallas (next year)."
As for for what it's like going from playing in Indianola to competing against NFL legends like Brett Favre and Terrell Owens, it's a blessing, Spurlock said.
"It's like a kid in the candy store," he said. "You go from watching them on television and now you come back home and people are asking for your autograph.
I had to opportunity to play against Favre when he was in Minnesota. Just to see some of the stuff he does, it's like wow. You become a fan, so it's amazing."