Clifton Crews III, a former standout at Jonesboro High and South Alabama, will get a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO - Moments after the recent NFL draft ended, Clifton Crews III phone started to ring.
On the other end of the line was a representative from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers extending a tryout offer to the outside linebacker. A day later, the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets placed a call to Crews, who was a former standout at Jonesboro High before signing with South Alabama.
After much thought, Crews decided to take the Buccaneers offer for a chance to earn a spot on their preseason training camp roster. He left Thursday morning for Tampa Bay, where he will workout through Sunday at the team’s training facility.
A good showing over the next three days will bring Crews closer to his dream of playing in the NFL.
“I will have a chance to compete for a spot,” Crews said Wednesday evening. “When I talked with my agent, we thought the Tampa Bay situation would be best for me. They want to see how I move, and react.”
Tampa Bay wasn’t one of the teams that attended Crews’ workout during South Alabama Pro Day on March 7 in Mobile. In addition to that workout, the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder received an invite to the NFL Regional Combine in Detroit and the Falcons Local Pro Day workouts.
“I’m real anxious to get down there and compete,” Crews said. “I have a lot of motivation and extra fuel to make the best of this situation. I know a lot of people don’t get this type of opportunity, so I want to make the best of it.”
During the recent seven-round draft, the Bucs used their seven picks to upgrade their offense. The NFC South team will be led this season by first-year coach Lovie Smith, who was previously the head coach at Chicago.
Smith earned his reputation as a stellar defensive coordinator in the league. Crews said the opportunity to potentially play for a coach like Smith is exciting.
“He is one of the best in the league,” Crews said. “I know not being drafted is going to be tough, but I have to go down there and prove myself. I have to prove to everyone that they made a mistake by not drafting me. Right now, I’m pleased with the opportunity to get a chance for a tryout. I know God has a play for me, and I want to give it my best shot.”
Former Riverdale High and Georgia Southern standout Lavelle Westbrooks was the only player from the county taken in the recent draft. The defensive back was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.
However, other players from the area have received free agent tryouts including Westbrooks former high school teammate Hakeem Smith, a former all-conference player at Louisville. Smith has been extended a free agent tryout with the Tennessee Titans.
Emmanuel Dieke, a former all-state player at North Clayton before playing the last four years at Georgia Tech, has been signed as a free agent by the New York Giants.
Locally, Kimario McFadden was offer a free agent tryout with the Atlanta Falcons. He played at Mundy’s Mill before a two-year all-conference career at South Carolina State.