TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers new wide receiver Russell Gage said Friday that when quarterback Tom Brady personally called him Monday night on the first day of the NFL's legal tampering period, he thought it was a prank. Gage had just talked to his agent and was weighing his options on where to sign next.
"For a minute, I thought it was a prank, somebody was trying to pull one on me," Gage said. "He just told me about what they have here in Tampa Bay and that he wanted me to be a part of it, that they have something really special going on. Honestly, he didn't have to say much. He definitely had me hooked on it after that. ... It was definitely special."
Gage said he got the call when he was taking out the trash. The two had no prior relationship, other than facing each other twice a year over the past two seasons. In Gage's last game against the Bucs, he hauled in a career-best 130 receiving yards in Week 13.
"I had just seen some fake news on social media so my mind was kind of on fake news, so then when I got the call it was kind of like, 'All right.' I'm in a state of shock and I'm stuck between, 'OK, this is unreal' and 'this is not funny!'" Gage said. "Just trying to navigate my way through that, and then as we got going, I realized, 'OK, this is something serious.'
"I had conversations with teams and offers and whatnot, but this was just completely different. This was like no other. It was a huge blessing. I was 3 years old when Tom Brady got into the NFL, so to hear from somebody like that, just seeing the other day that he unretired and now he's reaching out to me? It was unreal."
At what point did he know it was no prank?
"Probably midway through," Gage said. "I could kind of tell in the delivery that, 'OK, this is real.'"
Gage joins a Bucs receiving corps that includes Pro Bowlers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, a duo Gage has long admired and made it a point to seek out last year after the two teams squared off in Atlanta in Week 13.
"Just kinda watching them as players, as a receiver, you watch guys and try to mimic things, you learn things from different guys. I've always admired the way they gelled together as teammates, as players. I played them twice a year and I get to see those guys in action. They do so well. I just wanted to express that to them after a game, not knowing that I would end up on the same team as 'em."