Until last season, Lavonte David's career scenario remained consistent: year after year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' all-pro linebacker accumulated huge stats while the Bucs continued to lose frustratingly.
In David's first eight NFL seasons, the Bucs landed six times at the end of NFC South. The team ended seven of those years with a record of under 500, mixing five quarterbacks and four head coaches during that time.
Then came 2020 and with Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians in his sophomore season, David and the Bucs finally got a taste of victory. In 12 months, the Bucs went 7-9 to Super Bowl champions in 2019 after beating the Kansas City Chiefs (31-9) in Super Bowl LV.
While adding a Super Bowl ring, David maintains the hard work ethic he's shown throughout his career – reminding himself of the tough times he and the Bucs went through before last season.
"It's the same problem, especially for me and what we've been through here," says David. "From the playoffs to winning the Super Bowl, I can't give up now. I know that with all the work I've done during the difficult times, I want as many Super Bowls as possible."
He says the Bucs are now on a Super Bowl replay approach through 2021.
"The main thing is that you have to ignore the noise," says David. "Ignore all the people who are having these expectations of you right now and just focus on your team's success and your own expectations. I feel like we have a great group of people who, you know, a balanced one Keep your head and just focus on what we want to do. The Bucs are still an organization that a lot of people don't believe in. So that's a good thing. We'll just keep grinding. "
w that he's entering season 10, he's quietly become one of the best linebackers in the NFL. David says he still gets some of his mental acuity if he doesn't forget about the skeptics who passed it on in the 2012 draft. Many pro scouts had doubts that the University of Nebraska University of Nebraska two-time All-American and Butkus Award winner was the "elite size" at 6-1 "(233 pounds) for an elite NFL linebacker to achieve a significant impact.
But just a year after David slipped to the Bucs as the 58th overall winner in the second round, he received the 2013 All-Pro first-team award after recording seven sacks and five interceptions. David, who recently re-signed with the Bucs for a two-year extension worth around $ 25 million, was named second-team all-pro in both 2016 and 2020 and is consistently one of the championship leaders in tackles.
Proving doubters wrong is only part of David's motivational game plan that he shares in this week's winning strategy. The seven-time team captain also talks about the role leadership plays in a team's success, as well as the benefits of humor in moving a championship run forward.
1. Fuel your motivation with the doubts of others
I have to have a chip on my shoulder every year. I always have to prove that I'm one of the best linebackers in the league. Even with the numbers I've put up over the years, I still feel overlooked. It will always be, so it is what it is. I'll just keep grinding and proving that I'm one of the best and hopefully by the end of my career I can be called one of the best linebackers to have played the game.
2. Learn from your mentors and pass on the knowledge
In my beginner year, I had the chance to play with Ronde Barber. I could watch how he carried himself and how he did his thing from the field. For the rest of my career I had a man like Gerald McCoy who I thought was a great leader on and off the field for what he did with the people in his community. I admired the way he carried himself on the soccer field all week.
When it came time for me to take on the role of guide, I was just trying to use what I learned from these guys in the way I do. I am not a rah-rah or a pure leader. I am calm and relaxed. I feel like these kind of guys give the comfort to come up to me and talk to me when something is wrong. That was me: a mentor to a lot of young people. They come to me and ask for advice, not only in the field, but also on the go. And I'm proud of that. It helped me become a captain seven times. Whatever I did it worked out pretty well.
3. Pretend the world is always watching (it could be)
I prepare mentally and physically every week to be able to play four quarters every Sunday. But sometimes losing creates frustration.
I remember there was a point in 2014 – and it happened only once – when we lost. It got so frustrating that it got to a point where I didn't care (the team finished 2-14). I went through all the moves all week and didn't care about the game. I haven't studied the way I used to and I haven't taken care of my body as much as I should have done during the week. The game day came and my lack of preparation showed. I had one of my sluggish games ever. After that, I thought I could never put that kind of effort into a game again. Fans and family will see me differently.
It happened – I can't change that – but I changed that mindset immediately. From that moment on, I said I would never put myself in this situation again.
4. Enter the time
I think football is more mental than physical. The mental part helps you overcome the physical part. Knowing what is happening, what is going to happen and what to do in this situation will prevent you from injuring yourself or adding extra stress to your body.
I usually wake up at six in the morning, have breakfast, then do a little treatment and work on my body. However, sometimes I even go in at 5:45 a.m. and work out before starting my day.
Meetings start at eight o'clock and then offensive and defensive meetings – this is where we go through the game plan, which will probably last an hour and a half. Then we break off for individual meetings – another hour and a half to two hours. Then it's lunch before you come back and prepare for the workout, which can be two to two and a half hours.
After the last meeting is over, some people may go home or stay and go through things they may have missed. For me, I'm going home and learning more on my iPad. I'll go through additional things like the schedule and study more movies. So a player's day goes from at least 6 a.m. to around 7 a.m. This is a football life.
5. Keep some ease in your locker room
In the locker room, Leonard (Fournette) was always joking with everyone – and everyone came back to him too, which was all fun. It is great to be part of such a changing room. We have an open locker room where we can gossip, joke and just not insult certain things. At the same time, we can deal with one another openly and honestly. I feel like this kind of locker room vibe and kind of teammate makes the team work. It helped us become Super Bowl champions. I think it's definitely a good thing to be a part of it. It also helps when you win. When you lose, things get a little more serious.