Wirfs embraces Tampa Bay destination

Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs will be protecting a future Hall-of-Famer in Tampa Bay in a newly reloaded offense.


Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

When Thursday came around, Tristan Wirfs rolled out the red carpet.

With NFL Draft festivities that were supposed to take place in Las Vegas canceled, Wirfs wanted to make a gesture to make his mother feel special. He did so in their Mount Vernon, Iowa, front yard.

“The red carpet, that was a pretty special deal,” Wirfs said. “We were trying to give her a night kind of like Las Vegas. Obviously, it’s not near as fancy and we’re not dressed up or [anything], but we just rolled the red carpet out on our front lawn. Still, I was trying to make it special for her.”

Despite being regarded as the top offensive tackle in many mock drafts, Wirfs had to wait a few picks before he heard his name called.

Three tackles were taken in front of him — Andrew Brown of Georgia to the New York Giants at No. 4, Jedrick Wills Jr. of Alabama to the Cleveland Browns at No. 10, and Mekhi Becton of Louisville to the New York Jets at No. 11.

That allowed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to slide up a pick to No. 13 to select Wirfs.

“It was a pretty special moment,” Wirfs said. “When your phone starts vibrating, you kind of get this wave of excitement and fear and all of these emotions.”

Always wanting to be the best, the wait hurt Wirfs at first. Then, he found himself in a great situation to start his career.

“It was different for sure seeing those other three tackles go before me, but it was kind of nice — I’d almost rather have it like that than ultimately being the first tackle off the board,” Wirfs said. “I’m a competitive person and it was a stinger for a little bit, but then being able to go the Bucs and being in the situation I’m in now, I’d 100 percent rather have it this way.”

Now, the Iowa product will be protecting six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady. Brady has been in the NFL since 2000, while Wirfs was born in 1999.

Wirfs will join fellow tackles Joe Haeg, Brad Seaton, and Donovan Smith on the Tampa Bay roster.

“[He is a] great athlete, but just as importantly, he is a great guy,” Buccaneers’ general manager Jason Licht said. “He is a hard worker. He is very smart — just a top-notch character guy, in addition to being a great player. We saw that the run of tackles happened a little bit later than we expected and then we thought that there was a chance that somebody could come up and get him. We didn’t want to risk it.”

Along with his personality, Arians sees the physical gifts that made Wirfs stand out in the draft process.

“I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve done seen one do the things that he does athletically as far as numbers,” Arians said. “On the tape, he’s a powerful, powerful run-blocker — extremely light-footed. You see everything you’re looking for. It’s just when is he going to be ready.”

Licht said head coach Bruce Arians’ plan is to play Wirfs at right tackle, the main position he played at Iowa before injuries forced him to flip back and forth.

This year isn’t a typical NFL offseason, but Wirfs has access to a gym. Still, the Buccaneers want to wait until Wirfs is ready before throwing him onto the field.

“Let him come along at his pace. I think he’s coming from a place that is similar to what we do set-wise and pass protections, run-wise,” Arians said. “He’s extremely well-coached, so I think he’s ahead of the curve that way and should allow us to put him in the lineup when we think he’s ready. We’re not going to throw him out there until he’s ready.”

The similarities in scheme aren’t the only thing the Buccaneers liked about Wirfs coming from the Hawkeyes’ program. Kirk Ferentz and Company have a reputation for churning out quality offensive linemen. Wirfs is just another example.

“We like the fact that he comes out of a program where they’re known for developing offensive linemen,” Licht said. “Kirk Ferentz and his [son and offensive coordinator] Brian, who I’ve worked with, and the entire staff there are very good coaches, so it’s a big plus when you can get a guy out of a great program like that.”