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Cameron Brate: From life on the practice squad to the best TE duo in the league

It’s not often that we talk about undrafted free agents from Harvard as superstars in the NFL, and no Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t count – he was drafted in the seventh round. Cameron Brate has come a long way since then, bouncing around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints practice squads before he broke out in Tampa in 2015.

Brate has enjoyed his journey though; being on a practice squad is great, he just played football three days a week with no game pressure, but had to live with no job security. The sixth year Tight End believes it’s understandable that top draft picks get more opportunities, the team has more invested in them but it is hard to make it as an undrafted player, “it’s the same thing with any job, you need experience but no one’s going to give you experience.”

Five years down the line and the Bucs were right to take a chance on him, Brate is a key piece in the Bucs offence as they transition into the Bruce Arians era, looking for a first playoff spot since 2007. Brate is looking forward as a move Tight End in the Buccaneers system, allowing teammate O.J. Howard to be the Y receiver as a “prototypical Tight End.” Between them, they are competitive, but of course, there are only so many snaps to go around, they “try to one up each other after practice”. Ultimately though its a bromance, with each rooting for the other to succeed. Now they have developed into one of the best TE rooms in the league, it certainly seems Tampa has found the right balance of competition and support.

Brate is happy with where he’s at, having signed a 6 year $40 million dollar contract last Spring, he now has the job security he craved as a practice squad member. After a down year due to injury which led to hip surgery in January, Brate has been rehapping but will be “100% full go” for training camp. He is enjoying working with the new coaching setup under Arians, including Coach Javadifar, one of two female coaches on the staff who acts as the link between strength & conditioning and the training staff, and has been a “huge hit with everyone”.

Brate s also a big advocate of Jameis Winston. It’s not surprising that Brate is a fan, given the FSU alum’s tendency to pass to Tight Ends; regardless the Harvard alum expects Winston to thrive under a new coach, with his long term future and a contract on the line.

Brate himself is excited to be playing under Bruce Arians, “BA has a different way of doing things compared to the old coaching staff. I think the guys have taken a liking to him and the way he does things. He’s got so much experience and knowledge of the game of football so we’re excited to get going here.” Despite the lack of TE usage in Arizona under Arians, Brate isn’t concerned, he’s looking forward to working with an aggressive offensive coaching staff, and looks further back in the past for the role he might play in Arians’ offence. “When you look at his career in total with Heath Miller and Dallas Clark, it depends on the personnel”. With the loss of Desean Jackson and the lack of a bellcow running back, it’s easy to see the opportunities for Brate to set career high totals in 2019.

Ultimately, Bucs fans don’t need to worry about losing half of their phenomenal Tight End room any time soon, Brate is looking to play for as long as he can, and doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of John Urschel and do a PHd, “he’s actually a genius, I skated by and sweet talked my way in [to Harvard]”.

As the Bucs prepare to start a new dawn, there’s one area where they’ll have no concern, at Tight End. With two of the most talented players at the position on their roster and locked down long term, the future is exciting in Tampa. Even if they aren’t playing in January, it’s hard to see them not being an exciting team to watch on offence this season, and Brate, working with OJ Howard, Jameis Winston and Bruce Arians, figures to be a big part of that.

Image: George Somerville / ninentynineyards.com

Article written by:

I'm a fan of all sorts of sports, from football to football to Formula One, with a little rugby in between. I've been a Ravens fan for nearing two decades having grown up in Baltimore and now enjoy writing about the ultra-competitive NFC South.

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