A Dream Come True: Steven Cheah's Week with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For those that don’t know me, I’m Steven Cheah. I’ve been a Barstool Employee since October 2016 and work on the business floor. I also produce The Yak on Sirius from 12-1pm EST and do some coverage of the NFL Draft for Barstool. Oh, I’m also a huge Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. So much so that before I started at Barstool, in 2015 I noticed a lot of negativity in the Bucs twitter and media world, so I decided to try and change some things. I had a good working knowledge of coverages and offensive philosophies from almost 20 years of playing countless hours of Madden, so I decided to take my love of football to the next level and watch the All-22 of my favorite team and blast out clips on Twitter to help educate and inform the Bucs fanbase. The All-22 Coaches tape has two angles for each play, a wide sideline view and an end zone view where you can get a good sense of how each player is executing his job that you may not see on TV. When I started in 2015 I literally would watch the Coaches Film on my iPad, film clips with my phone, and upload them to Vine. :06 second video was all the rage and it autoplayed on twitter, so it seemed like a perfect way to do it. I didn’t edit the clips much besides clipping them down to :06 seconds which for most football plays, worked just fine. Fast forward a few years and Vine is dead and I’m editing screen recording clips on a laptop and posting GIFs to twitter with effects to further highlight plays players made. It’s been a passion project of mine over the years and I’ve developed a humble following, mainly in the Tampa area for it. My occasional Barstool cameos has certainly boosted my follower base, but I utilize twitter for my Bucs breakdowns in addition to following the social happenings at the Stool.
So I’m entering year five of breaking down tape and sometimes great things happen purely out of luck. This year, because of my work on Barstool’s business end, I had a conference in Orlando that I would be attending that overlapped with training camp. Tampa and Orlando are only a couple hours apart and when I got a push notification that the Bucs would be holding a practice open to the public on the day before the conference started I made sure I’d be in the sunshine state a day early.
I had been in touch with Bucs PR as I’d been trying to get Bucs GM Jason Licht on Pardon My Take for awhile now. Timing was always dicey and he’s a busy guy, so getting him in person proved difficult. But Jason did let me know that if I’m ever in the Tampa area to hit him up to go to be his guest at Training Camp. Little did he know that I actually would be nearby at some point in August, so when I got the camp schedule, I hit him up. He was more than open to hosting me and even offered to take me out with some of his scouts that night. I couldn’t have been more excited. Can you tell?
I made my way to Tampa late Sunday night because I was afraid of lightning delaying a once in a lifetime opportunity to chop it up with my team’s GM. Practice was at 4pm on Monday and I was meeting Jason at 3:30pm. I got a VIP wristband and took my seat at the 40 yard line. Just after 3:30pm I got a text saying “where you at?” from Jason. We met in the end zone and he introduced me to a bunch of coaches that know my soon-to-be podcasting co-host Willie Colon, so we had a bunch of material to yak about.
Jason then brought me to the opposite sideline for a closer look at the players and to talk shop. To say it was the thrill of a lifetime to be mere feet from guys like Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, Ndamukong Suh and others would be an understatement.
Not only that, but I was actually getting to talk ball with the guys that constructed the team! Jason introduced me to a few players and a few front office guys like Director of Player Personnel John Spytek among others. When I met with John, we were watching the offense in the red zone and the conversation went exactly like this:
“John, I’d like you to meet a friend of mine, this is Steven Cheah.” – JL
“Hey Steven, nice to meet you.” – JS
“Hey John, great to meet you as well. [Quick pause as we both look out onto the field to watch a play]. So how are we looking this year? Especially [redacted position group]. That was a weak point last year.” – SC
[John looks at me kind of bewildered]
“You just get right into it, don’t you?” – JS
Turns out John is a huge AWL and for the next 45 minutes, him, Jason, & I talked about Barstool along with other football decisions. I was blown away with his honesty and openness and I could tell it was the start of two good friendships, even after my hot start with John.
As practice concluded, QB Ryan Griffin and TE Cam Brate came over to say what’s up.
They had been a part of a clever rouse organized by my Yak cohorts earlier in the day in which maybe set a Guinness World Record (I’m totally note sure if it’s real or a joke) for most Buccaneers to call into a radio show with five and were looking forward to getting my take on the troll job. I talked with those guys in addition to my main man, LB Jack Cichy for a bit after practice and then made my way to the Panera next door to kill some time. Jason & John had some meetings, but Jason was going to text me when they were through later in the evening to meet up at a bar to throw a few back.
After about 90 minutes I got a text and ubered over to meet Jason, John & team at a local bar. It was him and three higher ups in the Bucs front office and they were drinking beer and playing Golden Tee. They needed a 4thso despite playing it one time maybe 10 years ago I was happy to partake. We played 18 holes and I finished roughly 36 strokes behind the Director of College Scouting, Mike Biehl (who later called me the worst Golden Tee player he’d ever seen), but they were all good sports about it and cheered every time I didn’t hit it in the water. In between strokes we talked about team building philosophy, previous hits & misses in the draft, our families, and just a general state of the league. We got to talking about previous Bucs and I mentioned Ronde Barber was my favorite player ever. So Jason whipped out his phone and texted Ronde to come join. Unfortunately, timing didn’t work out with him, but we were joined shortly after by Head Coach Bruce Arians. It was a group of eight of us, but BA went to talk with Jason and another coach about something that seemed important (they had just signed Safety Darian Stewart that evening). Meanwhile, I got to chop it up with some real football guys and it was heaven. An hour or so later, BA took off, but not before I got a photo opp.
I got to talk with Jason, the Director of Pro Scouting, Rob McCartney, Mike, and Mike’s buddy Jeff who has been a Stoolie for 10+ years for the next hour. We talked about a ton of stuff I won’t go into detail on, but it was enlightening and refreshing to get answers to questions I’ve wondered about told to me in a direct, honest manner that was no bullshit. They also seemed quite familiar with my stances on recent decisions and went so far as to pull up a video Big Cat had posted showing my reaction to the Devin White pick (initially was not favorable as I had my heart set on Josh Allen if he were available).
They asked me what I was thinking and even quoted my Mock Draft I wrote for Barstool. To say I’m a fan of this current regime would be a massive understatement. Around 10:45pm we headed out and I caught an Uber back home to process the day I’d just had.
The Bucs had another practice open to the public Tuesday at 10am so I was able to attend that before leaving for Orlando in the mid-afternoon. While I wasn’t on the sidelines like Monday, I did get to know a lot of the Tampa media and interact with a few fans which was a great thrill. It was very flattering to have people come up to me and say they have been following my breakdowns on twitter. The practice was cool and even Bucs legend, Warren Sapp was in attendance, bouncing around on the sidelines giving invaluable pointers to young guys. The threat of lightning took the practice inside where I had a nice end zone view of some 11-on-11s vs. the Dolphins. After practice I got to chat with John again and got on the field to snag a quick pic with QB Jameis Winston who was gracious enough to snap one more picture before heading to the locker room.
I got to talk with my new friend Cam Brate again and I was also hoping to stay and meet Mike Evans, but he was signing autographs for so many
kids people but I had to hurry out to make my next it to a press conference I got invited to through my media connections down there. My favorite player ever, Ronde Barber was having a presser at 1:30pm at One Buccaneer Place (Bucs HQ). It was to announce his induction into the Bucs Ring of Honor in a game vs. the Giants on September 22nd. I had a seat reserved for media and was in a room of about 60-70 people that included the best Bucccaneer of all-time, Derrick Brooks, Sapp and other former players in addition to my front office friends.
Friday morning, I was still in Orlando and had a Podcast Conference morning session to attend, but was looking forward to heading back to Tampa in the early afternoon to see my new friends and take in a game. It was raining most of the afternoon and evening, but the clouds parted a little after I took the field to watch pre-game warmups from the field. The Bucs Scouting Coordinator Cesar Rivera met me in the corner of the field and let me down to the hallowed Raymond James grass. I instantly saw John and Director of Football Administration, Mike Greenberg and we started chopping it up about living in the NYC-area as they both had experience in and around the city. As we moved from the tunnel to the 50, we talked for awhile about the salary cap and the state of the team. It was so interesting to get perspective from both the financial and personnel side. This was all happening with the Bucs 1stround pick, Devin White skipping around less than 10 feet away from me. The DBs moved into our area and started warmups and I was so close I probably could have taken a rep without anybody stopping me in time.
With about 15 minutes left in warmups, Mike Greenberg’s right hand guy, A.J. Stevens came over and introduced himself. Said he followed me on twitter and we got to talking. He was a really cool guy and I thought we hit it off, so as we were leaving the field I took another shot. I asked him if there was any way I could get on the field post-game. This is not even something that’s available to fans, but I was hoping to get to meet up with Cam Brate so we could do a jersey swap we had planned. Before I went down to Tampa I had two Barstool polos appended with the Bucs logo on a sleeve (shout out Welker). Cam is a huge Stoolie and we had planned an exchange prior to Friday. A.J. thought it was doable so we exchanged numbers. The game was awesome and the Bucs won on a 48-yard Field Goal by rookie K Matt Gay with only a few seconds remaining. As the game ended, I got in touch with A.J. who held up his end of the bargain. Only problem was most of the players had left the field by that time we connected again. I told him about my hopes for a jersey swap with Cam and he took me back to the locker room to meet up with him.
It was an unreal experience just being outside the locker room seeing everybody exit in street clothes. Beau Allen came out and we got to talking as I’d been assigned to get a picture with him this week since he was one of the callers into the Yak. He said he’d been looking for me and couldn’t have been any nicer.
A.J. was awesome and stayed late at work to allow me to meet up with Cam who did the jersey swap and enable me to get this iconic picture.
I was ready to go, but Cam told me to read the message he wrote on the jersey. It read “To the #1 Buc fan in the world, only a matter of time before you are GM of the Bucs. Thanks for the unreal support. Cam Brate #84″. That was certainly a special moment.
Then A.J., Cam, & I walked out of the stadium together just talking about life happenings. We parted ways and A.J. asked where I was staying. When I said a hotel by the airport, he offered to drive me home because it was on his way. On the ride, I was just saying how lucky I was and how everyone was so accommodating this week and he said something along the lines of (paraphrasing here): “We appreciate what you do in providing positive content for fans to learn more about the game.” That really was special to me because it’s honestly validated what I started out to do almost five years ago now. It’s incredible that the Bucs recognized my commitment and all the time I spent recording and editing clips became worthwhile in that moment. We talked for another few minutes and I know I’ve made another great friend in A.J. who couldn’t have been more gracious to a guy he just followed on twitter.
The next morning I flew home early to get back to my family and real life. On my way to the airport, news had broken that the Bucs had signed Jason to an extension a few months back (GMs deals are not nearly as public as player deals) and I couldn’t be happier for Jason and his staff. That news was the perfect cap to an unforgettable few days. There is literally nobody on the planet that had a better week than me last week and I don’t take that for granted. A huge THANK YOU to the entire Buccaneers organization who really rolled out the red carpet for me, gave me unprecedented access, and made me feel like family. This past week was absolutely a dream come true for me. Decades from now when I’m old and grey, I’ll look back at these pictures and that jersey with fondness, and I can guarantee they’ll bring a smile, just as big as the ones in these photos, to my face again.