TAMPA, Fla. -- Former Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead insists that he doesn't regret passing up his final season of college eligibility, only to watch the NFL draft come and go without hearing his name called.
Disappointed but undeterred, the one-time top prospect -- whose stock dropped during an inconsistent junior year -- signed a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is participating at rookie minicamp this weekend.
"I didn't really know what to expect," Snead said. "I certainly didn't have my hopes up too high or anything like that. I knew that anything could happen, so I was ready for anything.
"It didn't go exactly the way I had hoped, but I'm here now. I'm here to make the best of it."
Snead began his college career at Texas before transferring to Ole Miss. He appeared well on his way to being a high draft pick after throwing for 2,762 yards and 26 touchdowns in his first season with the Rebels two years ago.
Snead threw for 2,632 yards and 20 TDs in 2009, leading Ole Miss to nine wins and moving into second place behind Eli Manning on the career touchdown list with 46. But Snead also tossed 20 interceptions after finishing with 13 the previous season.
The decision to turn pro early surprised some scouts, who believed that Snead regressed as a junior and should stay in school. The 22-year-old scoffed at speculation that one of the reasons he left the Rebels was he wasn't guaranteed to keep his starting job.
"I graduated in December with my marketing degree," Snead said. "That was a huge thing for me, and really, I felt like it was my time to go.
"A bunch of people say it was because of competition, and I'll tell you right now, that's ridiculous," said Snead, who played behind Cleveland Browns draftee Colt McCoy at Texas in 2006. "I've never been afraid to compete. I wouldn't have come out if I was afraid to compete because I know that the next level is all about competing. Anybody that said I was afraid to compete doesn't know what they're talking about."
Snead and two other undrafted quarterbacks -- South Florida's Matt Grothe and Texas Southern's Bobby Reid -- hope to impress the Bucs and were given crash courses on offense.
So far, Bucs coach Raheem Morris likes what he has seen of Snead.
"He's done a good job of going out there being able to run the offense," said Morris, who added that he'll likely take four quarterbacks into training camp. Second-year pro Josh Freeman is Tampa Bay's starter, backed up by Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter.
"There's an opportunity for everybody in this camp," Morris said. "We wouldn't have brought anybody in who doesn't have a good opportunity."
Grothe, the Big East Conference's career offense leader who missed most of his senior season after knee surgery, is one of 49 tryouts hoping minicamp leads to a free-agent deal.
"I was very impressed," Morris said of Grothe. "Listen to him get into a huddle, you understand why he was in control of his team, why he was a guy over there at South Florida who ran the show. You're talking about a guy who has a lot of wins under his belt, a lot of yards."
Getting back on the field this weekend has been an emotional experience for Grothe, who threw for 8,669 yards and 52 touchdowns in his college career. At one point, he broke down while speaking about how much he has missed football and what the games means to him.
"It's just something I love to do," Grothe said. "The last eight months have been a big struggle for me, but I'm trying to come back strong. A lot of kids dream to be in these shoes, so I'm just going to not take it for granted and do what I can to try to stick around."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press