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December 2019

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Inside Bucs’ unique Cameron Brate NFL jersey collection

TAMPA – Cameron Brate is the kind of guy who’s willing to give the shirt off his back to another player.

But he’s afraid to ask for theirs.

“I feel like unless you know someone you don’t want to put someone in a position where they feel like they have to say yes,” said Brate, the 28-year-old tight end. years of the Bucs.

“If someone asked me for mine, I would give it to them.” But other than the guys in the locker room, no one came up to me and asked me that I don’t know. ”

NFL players exchange their jerseys at the end of games with as much regularity as phone numbers. The exchange meeting is usually the result of players who have attended the same high school or college or who are former teammates who have played in the league.

This is a relatively common phenomenon that began in the NFL several years ago and originated in Europe. futbol players who have been swapping shirts for decades.

But consistency was never really Brate’s thing. He is one of less than a dozen current NFL players at Harvard.

So instead of chasing the jerseys of NFL stars like Odell Beckham, Jr., he mostly sticks to current or former Bucs teammates, guys who played with the Crimson, or tight ends. which he admired from afar.

Her framed collection, which covers at least two walls of her bonus room in her Tampa home, has topped two dozen.

It’s not the biggest or the most glamorous collection of swimsuits, but it is perhaps one of the most eclectic.

“I just added three more,” said Brate. “I have one in my Tyler Ott locker, he’s a longtime Seahawks player. “He was a teammate of mine at Harvard.

But Brate also likes the jerseys of guys who grew up near his hometown of Naperville, Ill., Like Jaguars tight end James O’Shaughnessy, who was drafted by the Chiefs in the fifth round in 2015.

There’s even another Cameron – Cameron Meredith – who performed for St. Joseph’s High School in Westchester, Illinois, another Chicago suburb. Brate got the Chicago Bears jersey from Meredith. Undrafted from Illinois Street, Meredith was the victim of a prank call by someone claiming to be Patriots coach Bill Belichick, saying the team would select him 97th overall. The Patriots chose defensive end Geneo Grissom instead.

The irony is that after three seasons with the Bears and one with the Saints, Meredith was briefly with the Patriots as a member of their practice squad. This quirky story is portrayed on Brate’s wall.

“It was my first couple, and then I started playing with the guys at Harvard,” Brate said. “I would say half the jerseys are probably Bucs. “

The thing about swapping shirts in the NFL is that it’s an expensive hobby. In fact, teams usually discourage the practice by charging an exorbitant amount of money to have to make a new one.

Most teams only have one extra jersey for each player, so you can warn the equipment guys.

The Jaguars have been able to ask players to order additional jerseys before the start of the season so that they have plenty of inventory to distribute.

“Yeah, that sucks,” Brate said. ” It’s the worst. We must therefore be selective. You can’t go willy-nilly. ”

When Brate arrived as an undrafted free agent with the Bucs, the cost of making a new jersey was $ 300. Now it’s $ 500. He hears that some teams charge $ 1,000.

“I think they’re trying to put him off,” Brate said. “Because it’s probably a lot of work for someone, whether it’s a seamstress or someone like that preparing the shirts, because we play every week.

“My early years, it was quite expensive. But when you play in a small school, you don’t know anyone. Shoot, OJ (Howard) can swap jerseys with several people in Alabama every week while for me I have a small number of people I know who play. ”

Former teammates – or in the case of Adam Humphries, roommates – have been eager to swap jerseys with Brate.

“I have one Ryan Fitzpatrick Jets,” said Brate proudly. “It’s a strange thing. They sent him a jersey. I don’t know why and he doesn’t know why. Two years ago he said, “Do you want this?

“It’s a bit the same with (Adam) Hump (laughs). I have a Hump jersey. But I don’t have any Titans yet. Do i need another one? It’s a different team. It is therefore an internal debate. I would like another Fitz jersey because Fitz is the man. ”

Fitzpatrick, perhaps Harvard’s most famous NFL alum, could line a home just with the jerseys of the teams he’s actually played for. This list includes the Rams, Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans, Jets, Bucs and Dolphins.

Brate Bucs’ teammates were eager to exchange. “I have a Jameis Winston color rush,” said Brate proudly.

It also has those worn by Lavonte David, William Gholston, Mike Evans, Howard, Ryan Griffin, Anthony Auclair, Brandon Myers and Russell Sheppard.

There’s the obscure, like Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson, and the obvious, like Viking center Nick Easton, a Harvard graduate.

Indeed, collecting swimsuits has become a family affair. His girlfriend, Brooke Skelley, who worked for the Bucs but is now director of communications and marketing for the host committee of Super Bowl LV, has a few jerseys framed in the office of the playing couple with whom she has worked closely in Caroline and Tampa. such as Josh Norman, Thomas Davis and Jason Pierre-Paul.

Brate admits he would love to have the guts to ask some of the NFL’s best tight ends for their stitched numbers.

“If I could have a tight end or two in the league playing right now, I would love to have Travis Kelce or Greg Olson,” said Brate. “I know George Kittle a bit. “

In fact, Sunday against Indianapolis may present another early Christmas giveaway for Brate.

“The thing is, I really like (tight end) Colts’ Jack Doyle,” said Brate. “So I can say, ‘Dude, I’m a huge fan of your game.’

Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] Follow @NFLStroud

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