It's not often TV shows continue to live up to the hype but the one exception remains HBO's Hard Knocks. Getting access is such a key in covering sports and this show's producers take full advantage but they do their homework and go the extra mile in really taking you behind the scenes like no other show in history.
Bucs fans knew this would be fun to watch where the first offering was worth firing those cannons---here are my highlights:
(1) RILEY MANIA--this is what I love about Training Camp, those diamonds in the rough and leave it to Hard Knocks to unravel undrafted free agent Riley Bullough. Bullough is an undrafted, undersized linebacker but you wouldn't know it watching him and hearing him on the practice field.
His swagger and his knowledge of the Bucs defense has impressed teammates and had already caught the eye of Head Buc Dirk Koetter. He's the Bucs Hard Knocks star nobody saw coming.
WIth his swag and his long hair, Bullough put himself out there where it was funny learning some of his teammates called him, "Joe Dirt."
Bullough's brother is a special teams standout with the Texans so it's in the genes---he'll be a running storyline and fun to watch on this show in the coming weeks.
(2) WINSTON'S STORY: This is Hard Knocks at its best---not just covering camp but going behind the scenes to set the table for the stars of each team they cover.
The national narrative on Jameis Winston for many is an immature and often "inappropriate" young star dating back to his many missteps at Florida State but Hard Knocks showcased what a leader he is, how hard he works but the most poignant aspect is where Winston came from.
The open of the show displaying his humble beginnings on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama which gave many (including Bucs fans) a new look at where Winston came from and how far he has come.
(3) SNOOP & McNICHOLS: Great television watching the Bucs rookie running back Jeremy McNichols face time his high school 7 on 7 all star team who just happens to be ....Snoop Dogg himself.
McNichols who missed crucial time after being drafted by the Bucs with a shoulder injury confided in Snoop Dogg his struggles adapting to the pro game and the Bucs playbook.
Snoop input "All the things you learned in college will be supersized" at this level.
The rookie running back has a chance for early playing time with the three game suspension of Doug Martin ironically went to Martin's alma mater in Boise State where the most interesting part of his conversation with his former coach was Snoop's saying Doug Martin "won't be there too long" in Tampa Bay....does he know something we don't? Stay Tuned.
(4) MARTIN'S MOONWALK: A great thing about Hard Knocks is getting to know the athletes in a light we never usually get to.
Watching the usually reserved Doug Martin showcase his old school moon walk in front of the team during the rookie singing skits was freshing and entertaining.
Maybe Martin will incorporate those in Week Four after his first TD, now that the NFL has eased its celebration rules.
(5) GODWIN SHINES : Speaking of the rookies' singing exploits--while second round pick Justin Evans was justifiably booed off the stage, Wide Receiver Chris Godwin stole the show off the field much like he has on the field this preseason.
Godwin's cool and impressive rendition of Marvin Gaye's, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," was more than convincing.
HONORABLE MENTION: Hard to narrow Hard Knocks down to a top five as everything Jon Gruden is entertaining and he didn't disappoint with his many cameos in the first episode. Dirk Koetter is the perfect personality for this show and his interaction with Jameis both on and off the field is interesting and entertaining--can't wait for next week!