YaYa Diaby was one of three former Louisville football players to be drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft. He was drafted in the third round, Yasir Abdullah was drafted in the fifth round, and Kei’Trel Clark was drafted in the sixth round.
Several other former Cardinals ended up in the NFL by way of signing contracts as undrafted free agents. For example, longtime signal caller Malik Cunningham signed a contract with the New England Patriots, becoming the highest-paid undrafted free agent in franchise history. Cunningham receives a guaranteed $200,000, which is significant considering Bill Belichick has publicly endorsed former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones as the team’s starter.
But, we’ll see what happens in New England. Meanwhile, in the Sunshine State, YaYa Diaby is quickly making headlines for the Buccaneers. The former zero-star recruit worked his way through junior college, worked his way into a Division I football program, and proceeded to close out his collegiate eligibility in a convincing fashion.
In his final season with the Cardinals, he recorded 22 solo tackles, 15 assisted tackles, and 9 sacks. He was an absolute menace on the defensive side of the ball and disrupted the opposing team’s backfield on a weekly basis.
Now, he has the opportunity to do that in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they head into a post-Tom Brady era. One of the byproducts of Tom Brady’s departure is now the quarterback for the Buccaneers is someone not named Tom Brady. Baker Mayfield will most likely be their new starting quarterback and he is famous for wearing No. 6, which if you’re a Louisville fan, you know that No. 6 was Yaya Diaby’s number in college.
Diaby did not fight Mayfield for the number, and now he becomes the first player in Buccaneers’ history to wear the No. 0. Here is what he had to say on the situation regarding his number,
“They just said it was available,” Diaby said. “They said, ‘No other guys wanted it,’ so I was like, ‘Hey, it’d be cool, you know?’ I couldn’t get (No.) 6 (that he wore at Louisville) because of (quarterback) Baker (Mayfield). He deserves it. So 0 it is. That’s me.”
He may or may not have done it intentionally, but him wearing the No. 0 is a slight nod to the NCAA evaluators who gave him zero stars as a prospect in high school. Now he is the highest-drafted Louisville Cardinal in the 2023 NFL Draft and is set to make an immediate impact on the Buccaneers defense.
Head Coach Todd Bowles seems excited about what Diaby can bring to his team:
“He grew into his weight,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles said. “He has good size. He can go up to about 264, and he can still run. We see him as an outside linebacker in base, and he can still help us in sub. He can also go inside some as he gets acclimated to the system.
It’s just a matter of what are the tools that he has to see if he can move around or stay in one spot. But he has heavy hands, he’s a load to handle, and he can run.”
His physical gifts are what can keep him productive on an NFL team, but it’s his mentality, self-awareness, and humility that will really impress coaches and front-office management. His time working at an airport in Atlanta as a wheelchair passenger assistant helped mold him into an incredible human being.
Diaby said in a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times, “Working at the airport, it just made me stronger, stronger mentally, and just not taking things for granted.” That is a very important lesson that he learned at an early age and as a result, he will go far in life.
He will be a menace on the football field and a gentleman off of it. It will be exciting to watch his professional career unfold. We’re cheering for you, YaYa.