The next subject of my “Welcome Aboard” series isn’t exactly a new player to the Bucs, but he is a new player to the offensive line. J.R. Sweezy has been raising eyebrows and turning heads during OTA’s for his nastiness and tenacity as a blocker. Let’s just hope that he can stay healthy and pick up where he left off after the 2015 season.
Sweezy was signed as a free agent in March of 2015 and was supposed to be the replacement for retiring left guard Logan Mankins. Unfortunately, he sustained a back injury which required surgery. After signing a 5-year deal worth $32.5 million, he missed the entire 2016 season while recovering. He was finally medically cleared to fully practice and play back in January. He and the Bucs agreed to restructure his contract in order to protect the team and him by adding some injury clauses.
Now that he’s healthy and they have the money out of the way, he’s been impressive so far in practice. Head coach Dirk Koetter stated that Sweezy has “looked awesome” in OTA’s so far. Offensive line coach George Warhop says that “he brings that beat-the-dog-crap-outta-you type of edge” to their offensive line and compares him to Logan Mankins. Starting center Ali Marpet says that “he has a bit of a mean streak in him”. It sounds like he’s exactly what this o-line was missing last season.
Sweezy grew up an NC State fan as his grandfather played fullback for the Wolfpack. He played linebacker in his junior and senior years at Mooresville High School where he totaled 310 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 9 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. He was also the North Carolina Class 3A state wrestling champion.
Naturally, he ended up at NC State where he played linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle totaling 86 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries in 35 games, 20 of which he started. He was voted All-ACC honorable mention in his junior year and a team captain for his senior year. He did have his share of off-the-field stuff in college being arrested for marijuana possession and assault on a 65-year-old bus driver.
The 6’4″/300lb Sweezy had a less than stellar NFL Combine and was not a highly sought after defensive tackle. However, the
Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable saw something in him that nobody else did and he convinced the team to draft him in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He agreed to make the move from d-line to o-line where he was reunited with his former college teammate Russell Wilson. He played a reserve guard role in his first season playing in 13 games with 3 starts. In 2013, he again played in 13 regular season games as well as a postseason game for the eventual Super Bowl winning Seahawk team. He started every game at right guard in 2014 and the Seahawks went on to play in the Super Bowl again where they lost to the New England Patriots.
Sweezy may be a monster mauler on the field, but he does have a soft side off the field. He met his wife, Gissell, in the 6th grade. They became friends and even dated off and on through high school. After graduation, they went to different colleges and led separate lives for 5 years until they ran into each other in a restaurant in their hometown while they were both back visiting family. They were married in February of 2015, over 15 years after they met. They consider themselves “soulmates”.
They’re not only passionate about each other. They’re both very involved in charities working towards a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. His maternal grandfather had been diagnosed with the disabling illness back in 2006 and he watched him drastically decline in 2014. In Seattle, they both helped organize Alzheimer’s walks to raise awareness and plan to continue doing so here in Tampa.
I know there have been quite a few of you who feel that the Bucs haven’t “addressed” the o-line over this offseason. However, the addition of Sweezy at right guard and the move of Marpet to center will drastically change the look and the mindset of this group. This o-line will be key to the success of this offense, even more so than usual. The skill position pieces are certainly there now as this team is stacked with playmakers. I am excited about the potential of this group and what they might be able to accomplish this season, especially with Sweezy in the mix. Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!