LINCOLN — Tampa Bay went hunting for some receiver help for No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston on Saturday, and former Nebraska star Kenny Bell was one of the Buccaneers’ finds in the NFL draft.
The Bucs took Bell with a fifth-round pick — and the No. 162 selection overall — before also adding former Utah receiver Kaelin Clay in the sixth round.
Bell said during a Tampa Bay conference call that he met Winston at the NFL combine and looks forward to playing with the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner from Florida State.
“Love the dude,” Bell said. “I couldn’t be more happy for him that he got chosen No. 1. That is fantastic.
“I’m very excited to get down there and go to work with him. He’s one heck of a player, and I think he’s going to be one heck of a franchise quarterback. I’m just very excited to get the opportunity to play with him.”
After taking Winston to start the NFL draft on Thursday night, Tampa Bay and head coach Lovie Smith added potential offensive line protection Friday night with both of their second-round picks — tackle Donovan Smith of Penn State and guard Ali Marpet of Hobart.
The Bucs then went defense in the fourth round before dialing up Bell and Clay, who also are seen as potential help for their return games and special teams.
Bell brings a vertical threat to the Tampa Bay passing game after leaving Nebraska as its all-time leader in receptions (181) and receiving yards (2,689). He was first-team All-Big Ten as a senior, the first Husker receiver to be an all-conference pick since Jon Bostick in 1991.
“Kenny Bell is a fast guy,” Bucs General Manager Jason Licht said. “We had (40) times under 4.4. He’s been a really productive player at Nebraska. He can also return kicks.
“And most importantly, when I was sitting in the draft room, my dad texted Lovie and me and said we had to draft him, because my dad’s a big Husker fan and goes to all the games.”
Jason Licht, 44, is a former Husker walk-on from Fremont who graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan. He told Tampa Bay reporters that his father, Ron, has been an NU season ticket-holder since 1962.
Bell and Clay join a Tampa Bay receiving corps that already features veteran Vincent Jackson and 2014 first-round draft pick Mike Evans.
“I love learning from guys that have done it before me and that do it very well, and Vincent Jackson is one of them,” Bell said. “I was a huge fan of Mike when he was at Texas A&M when he was with Johnny (Manziel).”
Nebraska used to rarely have true receivers taken in the NFL draft. Now the Huskers have had three in the last five years. Before Bell, Quincy Enunwa was a sixth-round pick in 2014 and Niles Paul was a fifth-rounder in 2011 — though he’s since moved to tight end.
Lavonte David is another Husker tie to the Buccaneers. The All-Pro linebacker was Tampa Bay’s second-round pick in 2012.
Bell will be joining Licht, Winston and David before he knows it.
“I can’t really explain how excited I am to be a Buccaneer,” he said. “It’s a dream come true, to say the least.”
Contact the writer: