USF football’s largest main-stay in the NFL is coming home — sort of.
Jason Pierre-Paul, USF football’s highest draft pick in its 20-season history at No. 15 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, was traded from the New York Giants to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday.
The Buccaneers sent New York a third-round draft pick for the 2018 NFL Draft and swapped fourth-round picks with the Giants in order to bring the 6-foot-5 defensive end back to Raymond James Stadium, where Pierre-Paul played his home games in his lone season as a Bull in 2009.
“It feels like a reunion, like I’m coming back to high school again and meeting everybody,” Pierre-Paul said at his introductory press conference. “Obviously, I had to soak it in for a little bit. Everybody says it’s a great move. I think it’s a great move. My family is excited and I’m going to be close to my son.”
Pierre-Paul, a native of Deerfield Beach was in South Florida when he received the phone call from Giants GM Dave Gettleman saying that he had been traded. The Giants had been the only NFL team Pierre-Paul had played for in the NFL.
“I was floor shopping (when I got the call),” Pierre-Paul said.
“I actually had to sit down in my car and soak it in because it was mixed emotions behind everything. Through it all, I’m very excited. Being somewhere for eight years, it’s kind of hard, but at the same time — I’m closer to home now, closer to my son and closer to my family.”
Despite playing in New York, Pierre-Paul has always lived in South Florida and could be found there anytime he wasn’t playing or training with the Giants.
After graduating from Deerfield Beach High School in 2006, Pierre-Paul played two seasons at Fort Scott Community College in Fort Scott, Kansas. Heralded as a five-star prospect, Pierre-Paul chose to play his junior season at USF over schools such as Florida, Miami, Florida State, Kansas State, Arizona, Nebraska and Oklahoma State.
In his lone season as a Bull, he was named first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly, as well as a member of the All-Big-East first team. In the NFL, Pierre-Paul has had 58.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and two interceptions in eight professional seasons. He was a member of the Giants Super Bowl XLVI team and has been named to the NFL Pro Bowl twice.
“This is a big deal, I went to school out here,” Pierre-Paul said. “Tampa Bay is like my backyard. I know this whole city and I can’t wait to get to work with the guys.”