TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Najee Goode has never doubted himself, going from walk-on linebacker at West Virginia to fifth-round NFL draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs continued to rebuild one of the NFL's worst defenses Saturday, selecting Goode and then adding his college teammate, cornerback Keith Tandy, in the sixth round. Tampa Bay closed out their first draft under coach Greg Schiano by taking Utah State running back Michael Smith and Northwestern tight end Drake Dunsmore in the seventh round.
"We got better this weekend," Schiano said, adding that it's still far too early to say how much better.
The Bucs went 4-12 in 2011, ending the season on a 10-game losing streak.
"We're a work in progress. I don't know. I wish I could have one of those thermometer's that go up when you're doing a fundraiser, saying we're getting better and better and better," Schiano said. "You won't know until we hit the field and start competing with other teams. But I can feel a sense of: 'Hey, we're moving this thing forward.'"
Goode was the 140th pick overall, and the first player selected by Tampa Bay on Saturday. A high school quarterback, the 6-foot, 244-pound native of Cleveland arrived at West Virginia in 2008 as a walk-on hoping to do well enough to eventually earn a scholarship.
His father, John, was a tight end at Youngstown State and fifth-round draft choice of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1984.
"It was a long shot. I was hoping and praying for it, and I just kept working hard," Goode said, recalling how he felt about the prospect for playing in the NFL when he began his college career. "Now that it's here, I still can't believe it. I'm so excited and ready to get to work."
The Bucs didn't have a fourth-round pick after sending it to Houston as part of a trade that enabled Tampa Bay to move up to the second round and select Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David.
Counting Goode and Tandy, who were roommates at West Virginia, four of Tampa Bay's first five selections were defensive players. Alabama safety Mark Barron and Boise State running back Doug Martin were taken by Tampa Bay in the first round on Thursday.
Goode played middle and outside linebacker at West Virginia. He was second on the Mountaineers with 14 tackles for loss last season.
"I imagine they just want a hard-working player, hard-working athlete, a great linebacker," Goode said. "I'm going to try to do my best, accomplish all those goals and make plays."