TAMPA, Fla. - Robert Hainsey came to the Bucs in last year's draft as an offensive tackle from Notre Dame. But even before he arrived in Tampa, the team saw his size (6'4", 300 pounds) and skill better suited for the center position.
The team already had pro-bowler Ryan Jensen at center. And, after Jensen signed a multi-year deal in the offseason, it appeared Hainsey would be waiting for his opportunity.
The best players in the NFL help the younger guys learn the trade. And so it is with Ryan Jensen and Hainsey. This moment is possible for Hainsey only because he has been able to lean on Jensen for advice and acumen.
"Being able to learn from Ryan and watch him," said Hainsey. "He's helped me figure out who I am as a center. He's been a great mentor to have."
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles says Hainsey is putting in the work required to be elite.
"His film study's outstanding," Bowles stated. "He's been a tough guy. He comes from Notre Dame, he's very smart. He can see defenses, he can help the quarterback that way. He's diligent about it. He wants to be good. It's just a matter of getting to play."
The opportunity is here. The team will give him every resource to succeed. And Robert Hainsey says that success will be the best way to repay Ryan Jensen for showing him the way.
"I want to be there for him. I know he's going to be there for me. Big shoes to fill, but someone has to step up," he explained.
Hainsey will be pulling for Jensen's rapid recovery. Jensen will be pulling for Hainsey to keep the train on the tracks while he's away.