'We're Going to Tampa Bay!'

Special to SI All-American, Caleb Jones spent Draft Day with new Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker K.J. Britt
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In his Oxford, Ala., home on the final day of the 2021 NFL Draft, K.J. Britt sat on the sofa and waited for a phone call to change his life.

It had been over three hours since the final day had started. Several friends and family members were sitting outside on the back porch; some were scattered throughout the house. Britt was on the sofa, glancing at his cell phone now and then.

His agent had told him he was projected to go in the fourth round, but it had come and gone. Midway through the fifth round, Britt received a phone call from an 813 area code — Tampa Bay.

It was the reigning Super Bowl champions: The Buccaneers.

But the day before, on Friday, Britt was tending to his normal routine.

With about four hours until rounds two and three of the draft began, Britt had his Friday errands to run.

It started on the other side of town at his uncle’s property, where Britt keeps his hunting dogs. An avid rabbit hunter, Britt cares for 10 beagles who live in multiple kennels on the property. He feeds them, cleans their kennels and gives them fresh water every day.

“During the offseason or anytime football is over, rabbit hunting is a big source of my joy,” Britt said. “I make sure that my dog kennels are intact. I love them, man. It’s country living.”

After checking on his hunting dogs, it’s off to the car wash. On the way, Britt stops at a stoplight. To his left and to his right are multiple shopping outlets filled with retail stores and a multitude of restaurants lining the two-lane street.

He reflects on the city he’s spent the last 14 years of his life living in.

“Oxford is coming together pretty good,” Britt said. “I remember when none of [the businesses] were even here. This used to be a field right there [to the right]. You see the traffic, man. There used to never be any traffic.”

Britt proceeds to drive his Chevrolet Silverado through the car wash before stopping at the local pet store. There, he picks up dog food for his American Bully puppy, Knight, back home. 

The three staff members at the front desk know exactly who he is.

“You have to come back and visit us,” one of them says.

Another one inquires on if Britt has an idea of which team will draft him.

“I should know in the next 24 hours,” Britt said.

It’s not the last time Britt is recognized that day. He pulls into Bogo Fireworks, a local fireworks store that he frequents and is immediately recognized by the staff member.

Every Fourth of July, the Britt family puts on a fireworks show for the neighborhood which sometimes turns into the city of Oxford. Last year’s edition of the show lasted an hour and a half, attracting hundreds of viewers from around town.

He loads up the fireworks in the bed of his truck, takes a picture with the staff member and is on his way.

“I feel like sometimes I’m a hometown hero,” Britt said. “If I go somewhere out here, nine times out of 10, half the people in the room recognize me.”

Back home, family and friends begin to arrive with food, drinks and hope that Britt hears his name called in the second or third round that night.

There are two TVs on the main floor of the house, each one broadcasting the draft. There's a full spread of wings, chicken tenders, chips, salsa, and a cake that reads “Congratulations K.J. on the NFL Draft.”

The second round goes by and no one from Auburn has their name called.

Britt and his friends, along with Britt’s college linebacker coach Travis Williams, set up a table by the front door and begin play cards as the third round gets underway. Several card games later, Britt returns to the sofa where he watches the rest of the third round go by without his name called.

He gets up, stretches his arms and says goodbye to the friends and family that had come over. They’ll have to wait until tomorrow to celebrate.

The next morning, the draft began at 11 a.m. and the Britt household began filling with guests once again.

Finally, just before 2:30 p.m., Britt got the call from the Buccaneers. He stepped outside to the back porch, where he motioned to his family and friends that he’d been called.

“We got action,” Kenney Britt, K.J.’s father, said to Williams.

The guests rushed to the living room, where everyone gathered around Britt. With a smile on his face, Britt hung up the phone, stood up and turned to the crowd.

“We’re going to Tampa, baby!” Britt said.

It was time to live out the dream he’d had since he was five years old.

Caleb Jones is a senior studying Journalism at Auburn University. You can follow him on Twitter @calebjsports.