One of the treasures I had when I was 12 was my poster of Garo Yepremian. Having kicked for the Dolphins for almost a decade, he had just come to the Buccaneers the year before, and this larger than life character, Garabed Sarkis Yepremian, was now a Buccaneer.
To say that kickers are a different breed would be an understatement. And Garo broke the mold. He had never played football until he tried out for the Detroit Lions. He came to America from England with his older brother who was going to college on a soccer scholarship. Having played professional soccer, Yepremian could kick—oh, could he kick—but he was not up to speed on the rules of football at all. In his first game his coach told him they had lost the coin toss, at which Yepremian ran to midfield and dropped to his knees looking for the coin. One of his early games with the Lions found them losing but scoring a touchdown in the final 10 seconds. Yepremian was sent out to kick the extra point and was so excited after converting the point that he went running off the field with his arms raised in celebration. Teammate Alex Karras asked Yepremian, “What the hell are you celebrating?” Yepremian replied, “I keek touchdown.”
We moved around…a lot. At 12 years old I found myself at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School, the new kid trying to fly below the radar but working twice as hard as everyone else at the most competitive of adolescent activities, PE. It was my first day, and the rest of the guys were giving me some business, which, for a seasoned veteran of school changing like myself, made me work even harder to try and find my rank in the teenage alpha male hierarchy. After class that day my physical education teacher pulled me into his office to tell me how impressed he was with my competitiveness. He asked who my favorite player was, and at that very moment, I just happened to look over at his wall where hanging was the most beautiful, spectacular thing I had ever seen. Garo Yepremian in a Buccaneers uniform, kicking a field goal. My teacher insisted I have it, that I had “earned it.” I rolled that thing up and carried it around for the rest of the day like I was carrying the Hope diamond. That poster meant so much to me.