INDIANAPOLIS – Jeremy Trueblood is in his sixth season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he has started 71 of 80 career games.
Trueblood has been a stalwart for the club at right tackle after being a second-round choice by Tampa Bay in the 2006 draft. Trueblood played collegiately at Boston College, and some Colts fans might remember him when he starred at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.
Trueblood was a SuperPrep All-America choice as a senior, and he was a part of Cathedral teams that won consecutive 4A state titles in 1998 and 1999. While his career path has been very successful, it has taken him away from his hometown. His memories of following the Colts when he was growing up, however, remain fresh.
"I was a huge Colts fan. I watched every game on TV when I was little, and I definitely wanted to grow up to be a Colt," said Trueblood. "It didn't happen that way, and I've really enjoyed my time down here in Tampa. I still kind of keep track of the Colts. My whole family, they're all Colts fans. They've converted to Bucs fans, but they still root for the AFC Colts team. I still follow them, and I'm happy that they've had a lot of success. When I was younger they weren't quite as successful, so it's definitely gotten better since I left."
While the fortunes of the club did trend upward after Trueblood moved on, his career path has been one to respect as well.
At Boston College, he was a three-year starter who earned all-conference honors in 2004 and 2005. He started 36 games for the Eagles and majored in communications.
Trueblood was selected 59th overall in the 2006 draft, and he opened 13 of 15 appearances that season. In 2007, the Buccaneers averaged 4.2 yards per rush and scored 334 points, then the fourth-highest single-season total in team history. Trueblood was a 16-game starter along the way that year. He opened 16 games in 2008, and the team scored 361 points, second only to 388 points in 2000 for the highest seasonal total in franchise history. The Buccaneers rolled to 5,456 total yards that year as well. Trueblood opened 16 more outings in 2009, then started seven of 14 appearances in 2010. A start this Sunday would be the fourth one for him in 2011.
While adorned in Buccaneer Red, Pewter, Black and Orange, Trueblood remembers his youthful days following the Blue and White.
"I was really big on Billy Brooks back in the day," said Trueblood. "I loved Jim Harbaugh, and I followed the offensive line. Tarik Glenn, I thought, was a really good player and stuff like that. Like every other little kid, I was a big Jim Harbaugh fan."
Glenn played the other tackle position for Indianapolis, protecting the blindside of Peyton Manning for most his career. Glenn is a player Trueblood has met only briefly.
"I've never got to meet him," he said. "I've flown on an airplane, I fly back and forth to Indianapolis a lot, so I introduced myself one time to him just to say hello. He's a really good guy, and a really good football player."
The reason he did not open 16 games in 2010 was that an injury interrupted the season. A streak of 67 consecutive starts ended. It was something Trueblood contented with for the first time.
"Injuries happen, and, unfortunately, I hurt my MCL last year," he said. "My guy came in and played for me, James Lee, and played pretty well. The offense was moving, and sometimes you don't like to make changes when everything is gelling together like that. I'm just grateful that they gave me the opportunity to come back and prove that I still have some gas left in the tank to play football. It's something that I love to do, so I was excited about the opportunity."
Battling injuries and overcoming the process is a reality many players face, and Trueblood dealt with the matter.
"It is rough, especially (because) they had two road games right when I got hurt, so I had to sit home and watch it on the couch," said Trueblood. "I've never missed a game in my whole life until then, so that was hard for me. To come back and not play right away, it was tough. But it gave me some time to sit there and practice as hard as I could, practice against the ones, get some good work in, and then prepare myself for the opportunity to play again. Last year it kind of lingered, and it was something that didn't go away. It just happened to be, probably, the worst injury that I could possibly get, because of the pass (drop) and putting all the pressure on my right leg. It was hard to come back from that, but I had a good offseason. We had a long offseason, so I had time to heal."
Trueblood will see a familiar uniform across from him on Monday Night. He will be battling the men in the uniform, which means he should be seeing Robert Mathis a good bit of the time, along with the chance of bumping into Dwight Freeney. Trueblood has experienced the Pro Bowl tandem before, so he knows what lies ahead.
"(It is) definitely going to be a good challenge," said Trueblood. "I played against them in 2007, and we played up there. The end result wasn't pretty for us, but I got some good work against them. I know what kind of rushers they are, like I said, I watch a lot of Colts games on TV, so I've seen plenty of them. I feel really prepared, and it's going to be great to play on Monday Night Football against a great D-line. I look forward to the challenge."
Specifically, his assignment looks to be against Mathis. Trueblood holds Mathis in regard.
"I went against him the whole game (in 2007)...he did not get a sack…He's got it all," said Trueblood. "He is a good player. They say he is undersized, but I remember him being pretty strong for being an undersized guy. I feel like he has it all, and I've just got to be ready for it."
Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris likes the way Trueblood is playing, and he knows the sixth-year veteran will have a challenge on Monday.
"He's looking consistent," said Morris. "That's about the best compliment you can give a tackle, when a guy goes out there at tackle and plays that position and not get noticed, that's what you want. This week, it's probably the toughest challenge he'll face, not only this year but just period, in general, with the two ends that (they) have got in Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Brayton coming off the bench. It's just something to deal with. You've also got Jerry Hughes. Those guys are all problems, so you've got to learn how to block those quicker guys. This week could be a challenge for all of us."