Noah Spence’s coach last season at Eastern Kentucky said Wednesday that answering questions from NFL scouts about Spence was easy because he believes Spence will put his checkered past behind and have “an outstanding” NFL career.
Dean Hood, who was the head coach at Eastern Kentucky last season, said the recommendation of former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was enough for Hood to take Spence on what he knew would be a one-year trial, and that Spence was “better than advertised” as a person and as a player.
“He was outstanding,” Hood said. “It was one season but it couldn’t have gone any better.
“Urban stood on the table for the kid which he’s never done. Urban has never called me and said, ‘Here’s a kid that would do well with a second chance.’ Right away I knew Noah was a kid who needed that chance. From the moment he stepped on the field he was great. Our guys wanted to know if he would work and if he would be about the team and he was.”
Meyer and Hood are longtime friends who hold a youth football camp each July near their hometown of Ashtabula, Ohio, and both spoke after the annual camp Wednesday.
The Buccaneers drafted Spence at No. 39 overall in April.
“Every scout that asked about him, I said Noah has a work ethic that was [outstanding],” Hood said. “He has a competitive rage that’s coachable. I’ve been around some kids that have that rage, that edge, but it wasn’t controllable. But Noah liked coaching. He handled everything. I think he’ll be successful. Everybody’s looking for pass rushers and there’s a reason the Broncos raised that trophy last February. They had a lot of them.
“This is Tuesday practice [and the scouts] would be shocked, like they thought he would be on the exercise bike waiting for Saturday. That wouldn’t have happened and that’s not who he is.
“They were almost like shocked. They’d see Noah in drills — individual, team, whatever — and they’d see him working. They asked all the questions. Because of the background they had questions. They were easy to answer.”
After he was booted from Ohio State’s program for twice testing positive for ecstasy, Spence said during the pre-draft process he was tested weekly and never failed again.
Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht said in May that the team did its homework on Spence and felt comfortable picking him in the second round.
“My director of security…[met] with him several times and also our area scout, national scouts, everybody involved in the process,” Licht said. “He owned up to his mistakes. We thought he made some immature decisions and we feel like we have a very strong locker room. Especially on defense with Gerald McCoy, LaVonte David, some of those guys. We thought he was immature at one point and he’s owned up to them and now he’s looking to move forward. He loves football.”