On the night the Buccaneers drafted Tristan Wirfs, head coach Bruce Arians called the team’s newest offensive lineman at his home in Iowa.
"B.A. was like: ‘Are you ready to protect Tom?’ " Wirfs recalled. "I was like: ‘Um, not right now.’ It was a lot being thrown at me. Just those couple of words I was like, ‘Wow.’ "
Instead of being overjoyed at being a first-round pick, or even miffed that he was the fourth lineman off the board, Wirfs said he experienced a "wave of terror" from that day in April all the way to the day he reported to training camp in July because of the immense responsibility of blocking for Brady.
Since then, though, he has proven the Bucs right for having traded up one spot to take him 13th overall. He allowed just one sack all season and on Sunday will be starting at right tackle in Super Bowl LV.
The Giants selected Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick believing he was the best offensive lineman in the draft. The Browns took Jedrick Wills with the 10th pick, then the Jets took Mekhi Becton at 11, each believing they were getting the top blocker. The Buccaneers had Wirfs at the top of their board and he’s shown why.
None of which is to say the Bucs were right and the Giants, Browns and Jets were wrong. It takes a long time to judge offensive linemen in the NFL, and all three of those teams are probably still happy with their selections. Wirfs also plays a slightly different position than the other three, who are left tackles.
But the Bucs aren’t just happy. They are ecstatic.
"He came in and he’s been nothing but a dream come true for us," Arians said. "An extremely mature young man, great athlete. He just took the bull by the horns and has done a great job blocking just about everybody they put in front of him."
Wirfs said he still has trouble wrapping his mind around blocking for Brady. But when that happens, he tries to ignore who he is and just focus on the position Brady plays.
"That’s my quarterback," Wirfs said. "I want to do everything I can to make sure nobody touches him."
Notes & quotes: WR Antonio Brown (knee) was a full participant in Thursday’s practice. TE Cameron Brate (back) was limited for the first time this week . . . Arians said all of the injured players, including S Antoine Winfield Jr (ankle), S Jordan Whitehead (shoulder) and LB Lavonte David (hamstring) who were limited, "looked good" and "were active and ran around pretty good."