Bucs use final pick to draft Houston linebacker with relevant backstory

Joey Knight, Tampa Bay Times
·2 min read

With the final pick in the 2021 draft, the Bucs had the distinction of choosing the player universally tabbed “Mr. Irrelevant.”

Turned out, they might have drafted Mr. Indispensable — as far as his family’s concerned.

Houston linebacker Grant Stuard, a Texas native known for an on-field motor that reaches the 90s and a hairstyle that beckons to the ’80s, was selected by Tampa Bay with the 259th overall pick.

“We love him as a person and obviously as a player,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said.

“I think he’s got a lot of emotion on the field. He’s had a little bit of a tough life. He’s been taking care of his (four) siblings ... but he’s a very mature person and a very accountable person and a very accountable football player.”

A first-team All-American Athletic Conference pick in 2020, Stuard led the Cougars with 61 tackles in only seven starts (he opted to sit out Houston’s bowl game). He was a second-team All-ACC pick as a junior, tallying a team-high 97 tackles, including 9.5 for loss.

“He was a tackling machine on special teams early on (at Houston),” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “He will be that special teams dynamo, going down and making that huge and impactful hit.”

But Stuard’s impact off the field has been far more profound.

Stuard, who was joined by his mother on a Zoom session with reporters Saturday evening, has publicly acknowledged she has struggled with drugs and has worked in the sex industry. He has helped raise money for “Heels to Halos,” an organization that works to help women involved with sex trafficking.

At his recent pro day, he pledged his bench-press reps to raise money for “Heels to Halos.”

“I really just feel called to give back to others as much as I can do,” said Stuard, who wore a throwback creamsicle hat with the Bucco Bruce mascot to the Zoom session.

“The big passion of mine is to spread the Gospel and spread the message of Jesus Christ. Whether it’s a toy drive I did or a back-to-school drive or food drive or the ‘Heels to Halos,’ it’s really just finding opportunities to give back and doing something about it.

“I feel like, as a football player, I have a such a big platform to be able to do that.”

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