Vols tight end Luke Stocker, No. 88, tries to outrun UAB safety Chase Daniel, No. 31. Staff File Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press
KNOXVILLE — Luke Stocker played for three head coaches with three varying offensive systems and four offensive play-callers during his five-year University of Tennessee football career.
That amount of turnover might not seem like it would help the former Volunteers tight end reach the next level, but his ability to excel in his final two seasons in offenses similar to what he’ll see in the NFL became an asset leading up to last week’s draft.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Stocker in the fourth round.
“I think it’s definitely a positive thing,” Stocker said inside Neyland-Thompson Sports Center following a Tuesday afternoon workout, adding that scouts have seen him “in situations that they can see how I do in certain situations where they can evaluate how I would respond at the next level.
“A lot of tight ends that came out played in different types of offenses where they were never put in situations that they would be in in the NFL, and I was in that all the time. I think the scouts could definitely see and evaluate me for certain things that other guys couldn’t be.”
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Kentucky native was a three-year Vols starter who increased his receptions and receiving yardage each year he played. He caught 29 passes as a junior and caught at least one in every game as a senior, when he had 39 receptions for 417 yards and two touchdowns.
Vols coach Derek Dooley said last week that UT’s pro-style offense would help both Stocker and receiver Denarius Moore, a fifth-round pick by the Oakland Raiders, in the NFL.
Stocker’s size in pass routes and strength as an effective blocker along the line made him one of the top four or five players at his position in the draft.
“There’s a lot of things I don’t have that is elite, but I think I do everything pretty well,” Stocker said. “That’s kind of what the scouts said about me. I think that’s where I bring my value to the team. There’s a lot of different things you can count on me to do for an offense.”
Most projections had Stocker being drafted in the second or third round last Friday, but he woke up Saturday morning still wondering when the phone call would come. Just seven picks into round four, the Bucs moved to get him, swapping fourth-round picks and sending a fourth-round pick in next year’s draft to Philadelphia.
“My agent,” he said, “we had a lot of conversations with different teams and we were expecting a possibility of sneaking late into the second round, but we were thinking third round is probably where I would fall.
“Friday night was a long night. It was a little disappointing, but I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out, and me going to Tampa turned out great for me. I looked at my phone a whole lot waiting for it to ring, and it never did. When I did get the call, I made the most to enjoy that moment and take it all in, and it was a ton of excitement and a ton of joy.”
Stocker plans to spend another week in Knoxville before beginning the process of moving south for the next phase of his career, though he’s still waiting out the status of the lockout like the rest of the league. He’ll join veteran tight end Kellen Winslow on a young offense led by quarterback Josh Freeman.
It’s another coach to play for and another offense to learn, but it likely won’t be anything too unfamiliar for Stocker.
“They were thrilled to have me in the fourth round,” he said. “I feel good about that and feel good about them trading up to get me. I’m glad I’m going to a place that does want and did need me as a tight end. I’m happy with where I’m going.”
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...