He walked right by my wife, Kathleen and I. Hardware in hand. I don’t know if it was the exuberance of the evening or the exhaustion all Buccaneer fans were experiencing, but we did not recognize him whatsoever. Not at first, anyway.
The entire month of January 2002 was a blur for fans of Tampa Bay football. With a first round playoff bye, the team didn’t play their first postseason game that year until they hosted the San Francisco 49ners on January 12th, beating them 31-6. The following week saw the good guys marching into Veterans Stadium and beating the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 in the last game to be played there. Many NFL players missed playing on the wonderful surface at the Vet. Of course, last but certainly not least, was the biggest game in Buccaneer history, their victory over the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII.
When it was announced early that Monday morning that the team would be opening up the gates to Ray-Jay and letting fans come over and welcome the world champions back to Tampa Bay, it just made sense. Once the gates opened and fans poured in, it was the most cordial chaos you could imagine. The pilot of the returning champions’ plane had requested and received permission to fly over the stadium. As tens of thousands of Buccaneer faithful waved their hands and screamed with joy, tears flowed down so many cheeks. That moment became immortal.
The players, coaches, team personnel, and the Glazer family eventually made their way out onto the green grass at the stadium and shared the Lombardi trophy as much as they could. Our Lombardi trophy. All the bad personnel decisions. The 0-26 franchise start for this team. Bo Jackson, Steve Young, the heartbreak this team experienced in its first 25 years of existence. It all washed away like water off of a duck’s back. Winning really does cure everything.
My wife and I decided to take the long way back to Himes Avenue, leaving through the front door, west side club, and circling the stadium first. Just as we got outside, an athletic looking young man came walking right by us. There, just the three of us, passing like ships in the night, and one was carrying a trophy. We had left a little early and did not think that we would see any players. We had not walked five steps past each other when I realized that I did recognize that young man and the trophy he was carrying. It was none other than Dexter Jackson, and he was carrying the Super Bowl MVP trophy.
At some point on Friday night, April 26th, Dexter Jackson will step to the microphone and announce the 3rd-round pick for the team he helped win a championship with. Having been a 4th-round pick himself out of Florida State, wouldn’t it just be the bees knees if the name he announces that evening becomes the 2nd or even 3rd Buccaneer to win a Super Bowl MVP? Either way, DJ, next time, I’m going to have to stop you. I’d love to get a quote or even a small interview for the Bucs Report.