On eve of son's birthday, Ryan Succop delivers another gift
If the 21-game Tom Brady era has taught Tampa Bay fans anything, it's that one should never sleep on these Bucs. Cooper Succop did, though not of his choosing. His father's memorable night was a school night.

"Literally the first text I got after the game, I saw my wife (Paige) had texted me: ‘I'm so bummed I made him go to bed at halftime,' " Bucs second-year kicker Ryan Succop said shortly after his 36-yard field goal that clinched a wild 31-29 Bucs triumph against the Cowboys in their season opener Thursday night. " ‘He's going to be so mad when he wakes up.' "

On Friday afternoon, Succop was set to board a plane for Nashville, where his family resides, to celebrate Cooper's sixth birthday in person. Long before the latest clutch kick of his brief Tampa Bay tenure, coach Bruce Arians had excused him from Friday's team meeting so he could attend the party.

"It was kind of neat because (Thursday) - I kind of honestly thought (Arians) forgot about it," said Succop, who turns 35 a week from Sunday. "As soon as we made the kick, I came off the field, and he gave me a big hug and said, ‘It's going to be a heck of a birthday party tomorrow.' That was pretty cool for me."

And pretty reassuring for a fan base once cursed by kicking futility. While Cooper is ripping the wrap off his presents, Bucs fans will continue celebrating the special-teams gift that keeps on giving.

Released by the Titans after six seasons in March 2020, Succop was brought in by the Bucs in late August when neither Matt Gay nor Elliott Fry could provide training camp consistency at the position. He signed on Sept. 1, hit 28 of 31 regular-season field goals, then went 9-of-9 in the playoffs.

A spotty 2021 preseason raised concerns and had some fans clamoring for rookie Jose Borregales - who won the 2020 Lou Groza Award at Miami as the country's top kicker - to get a shot at unseating Succop. But Arians never showed fear of August shakiness spilling into September. "Never a doubt with Ryan," Arians said after Thursday's triumph. "Never a doubt."

If only Cooper could've seen it in real time. "Obviously (Tom Brady) is the greatest quarterback of all time. The greatest player of all time," Succop said of the guy who led another winning drive. He's so calm, so collected. His poise, I think it permeates everybody, and everybody goes out and plays better because of him. Credit to our offense; our coaches put us in a great position. Went right down the field, great two-minute drill, and we were able to have a small part at the end of it. It was really cool."

Joey Knight, The Tampa Times, published 10 September 2021