Former Natchez High standout Pendleton signs with Tampa Bay

Published 9:49 am Sunday, April 28, 2013

OXFORD — It was the best wakeup call of Wesley Pendleton’s life.

It would be for any football player, if the person on the other line was telling you that you’d have a chance to play in the NFL.

Pendleton received a call from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 7 a.m. Saturday morning, with the team informing him that he had an offer to sign on as an undrafted free agent. For Pendleton, an Ole Miss cornerback and Natchez High School alumnus, the phone call brought with it excitement — and relief.

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“They called me during the fifth round (Saturday) and said they’d try to draft me in the sixth round, but they needed a running back,” Pendleton said.

The Buccaneers used their sixth-round pick on Miami running back Mike James. Without a seventh-round pick, Tampa Bay was unable to draft Pendleton in the later rounds, leaving the former Bulldog a bit stressed, he said.

“It was the longest three days of my life,” Pendleton said. “I was sitting around kind of stressed, because I thought I’d get drafted. I was happy they called.”

Pendleton said the Buccaneers like his speed — he ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at Ole Miss’ pro day — and he’s happy he’ll get the chance to show what he’s made of. Considering that he missed time this past season with both a high knee sprain and a high ankle sprain, Pendleton said the chance to play professional football was that much more special.

“It’s been a long journey,” he said.

With Pendleton signing a deal, that marks two NHS players to get free agent contracts with NFL teams in two days. Former NHS receiver Rico Richardson signed with the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday night, and Pendleton said he’s excited for his former teammate, who graduated high school with Pendleton in 2009.

“We grew up together,” Pendleton said. “We were on the phone the whole draft. I’m more happy that he made it than I am with myself, because I saw him grow into a really good receiver. I wish the best for him.”

NHS head football coach Lance Reed said having two players potentially representing the school and city is outstanding.

“Those guys going on to the next level is a testament to their abilities and hard work,” Reed said. “It’s a proud day for Natchez High School and for our former players. I am just as proud of these two men who are on schedule to graduate college as well.”

Having coached Pendleton, Reed said his former cornerback’s speed is his best attribute as a player.

“He’s one of the fastest kids to come through Natchez High School,” Pendleton said. “We knew how fast he was back then, and he’s gone on to use that speed to catapult that to his success. He’s a tremendously gifted young man.”

Pendleton said he’s set to fly out to Tampa Bay Thursday for mini-camp. Along with Richardson, Pendleton said he’s ready to help put Natchez on the map.

“We want to show people that even though we come from a small city, we can still make it,” he said.

If they do both make it, Pendleton said he hopes to one day square off against his former Bulldog teammate.

“With him being a receiver and me being a cornerback, hopefully we’ll get matched up with each other,” Pendleton said.

Pendleton is the son of Wesley Sr. and Ruthie Pendleton.