TAMPA, Fla. — Upon ending his eighth NFL season Sunday, former Iowa TE Brandon Myers thought back to his rookie season. He couldn’t help but smile a little.
Back then the kid — now a 31-year-old veteran — couldn’t see past trying to make the team. Surviving to the regular season, let alone through several, never would have crossed his mind.
“I didn’t really look too far down the road,” Myers said Sunday following the Buccaneers’ season-ending 17-16 win against Carolina.
That approach helped Myers throughout his career and now, after finishing his third season with Tampa Bay, Myers will use the same approach with his upcoming free agency.
“I am going to take it day by day, kind of like how I take everything and see what happens. You never know if you are coming back or if you aren’t coming back.”
Myers still views his NFL career through the lens of a sixth-round draft pick. He has needed to scrape his way to everything since 2009 — be it earning a roster spot, making a play or becoming a starter, like on Sunday.
It’s not all that different from the point of view the teenager from Prairie City-Monroe High School (Iowa) took upon arriving to Iowa City as a freshman in 2005. He was a 2-star recruit who needed to prove he belonged while learning the basics of a college or pro practice.
He never did a 9-on-7 or a 7-on-7 drill in high school. It wasn’t logistically possible for a program with 30-some odd players.
“We did 9-on-7’s against garbage cans back in high school,” Myers said.
He had no idea an all-conference college career was in front of him, let alone that the Hawkeyes would mold him into an NFL-caliber prospect.
“They taught me everything,” Myers said of the Iowa coaches. “It was definitely a pro structure, the way the coaches do it. You can tell the coaches just prepare the guys to win.”
It’s served Myers well as he’s gone from Oakland to New York to Tampa Bay, compiling 199 career receptions along the way. His best statistical season was in 2012, his final year in Oakland. He caught 79 passes for 806 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Myers carved out a role in Tampa Bay the last three seasons, helping primarily in the running game. He finished with 7 receptions this season, including 1 touchdown as the Buccaneers went 9-7 and just missed out on a playoff berth.
“Everyone just clicked,” Myers said. “It made coming to work fun every day. This team is going in the right direction and it’s fun to be a part of. We didn’t get to where we wanted to. I wouldn’t say it was a failure. The only way it’s a failure is if you don’t learn from the things that happened this year.”
Tampa Bay must learn to finish games better, Myers said, thinking back to single-digit losses to Los Angeles, Oakland, Dallas and New Orleans.
If the Buccaneers flipped one or two of those games into victories, Myers would be heading to the playoffs. Instead, it’s free agency.
He’s going to treat the offseason a lot like his career, he said. He only wants to think about what’s in front of him — and right now, that’s actually Iowa football.
The Hawkeyes face No. 17 Florida in the Outback Bowl on Monday (1 p.m., ET, ABC). A group of about 15 friends and family are going to the game.
Myers met up with current Iowa defensive line coach Reese Morgan, who recruited him, a few days ago. Before Myers learns where the next chapter of his pro career will take him he’ll watch his alma mater. It is the next thing down the road, after all.
“I’ll be cheering just like everyone else in black and gold,” Myers said.