Tiquan Underwood's name came across my Twitter feed this morning—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed Underwood as depth at the wide receiver position. Normally, this news would've been filed away as just a low-level move by the Bucs that wouldn't make too many waves in the NFL.
Underwood's story is a bit different, however. If you know Underwood's name, it's probably because of what happened to him prior to the Super Bowl last season.
Less than 24 hours before the Super Bowl kickoff, the New England Patriots' brass released wide receiver Tiquan Underwood and signed defensive lineman Alex Silvestro from the practice squad.
The move was a stunning one, especially given the fact that the Patriots provided no reason for the decision.
Underwood's agent, Ethan Lock, stated that the Patriots failed to give him an explanation for cutting Underwood, according to Patriots beat reporter Jeff Howe.
New England cutting Underwood just prior to Super Bowl kickoff is, by itself, an ice-cold move for any player. But considering the type of man Underwood is, it's a heart-breaking one, as well.
After his senior season at Rutgers University, Underwood was the recipient of the Loyal Knight Award. He earned this award by distinguishing "himself by sacrificing personal goals for the team," and because his "character and dedication...proved resilient in his pursuit of excellence," according to the Scarlet Knights' website.
Only one football player at Rutgers earns the Loyal Knight Award each year.
Awards are one thing; a person's actions are another. They say that what you do in public establishes your reputation, but what you do in private determines your character. Well, they got it right.
And so does Underwood.
Moments after the news broke that he was released hours before the Super Bowl, Underwood cemented the foundation of his strong character.
Underwood took to Twitter to express himself about the situation. Typically, athletes who have used Twitter to let their thoughts be known have tweeted statements that they have to apologize for later.
First, he let it be known that he was going to use the unfortunate circumstance as motivation. Then, his character came racing out.
His second tweet after learning the news was, "I Been Thru A LOT...But There Are Ppl In This World w/ More Serious Problems So I Cant Hang The Head....Thank You Lord #Blessed."
Underwood's ability to put his situation into such a deep perspective at a time when the entire country—and many all around the world—was focused on the football game that he was, just minutes prior, going to be a part of is instructive as to why Rutgers bestowed the Loyal Knight Award upon him.
Underwood took it even further, however.
Three minutes after letting his unparalleled perspective be known, he tweeted "Good Luck To The New England Organization, The Coaches, & All My Teammates... #PatsNation."
A true gentleman. But not everyone in the Pats' organization is.
Perhaps Belichick was moving pawns around the night before the game to throw the New York Giants off. If so, Belichick needs to learn that he's playing with real lives and not chess pieces.
So as I see Underwood's name scrolling up my Twitter feed, I read his story not as a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, but as a Tiquan Underwood fan.
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