Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber. Why am I listing these 4 names you ask? These 4 names make up the Bucs Mount Rushmore as the greatest Tampa Bay Buccaneers of all-time. Let me explain.
First a little about our history. In the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41 year history, there have been many, many lows, and a handful of highs. We all know our franchise started 0-26 during its inaugural 1976 season into the 1977 campaign. Besides the first pick in the history of the Buccaneers, DE Lee Roy Selmon in 1977, the majority of those highs came after the 1994 season, when the fortunes of our franchise finally began pointing up.
For starters, we had Malcolm Glazer and family bought our beloved franchise on January 16, 1995, NFL draft. The Buccaneers drafted DT Warren Sapp in the early in the first round, and then traded up again by trading both of their second rounds picks to draft LB Derrick Brooks late in the first round. Tampa Bay finished that season 7-9, and subsequently, they fired head coach Sam Wyche and brought in then defensive coordinator Tony Dungy from the Minnesota Vikings to lead and turn our franchise around.
I’m sure we can all agree, was the real turning point for our franchise although the Bucs finished a measly 6-10. Then, just two short years later, in the 1997 NFL draft, the Buccaneers drafted CB Ronde Barber. Once all the pieces were in place, Tampa Bay was well on its way to its one and only Lombardi Trophy, when we destroyed the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII (37), 48-21, with Dexter Jackson taking home the MVP award. Nonetheless, I feel the 4 players I listed are the best in the history of our franchise. Now to why we’re all here.
First up, Hall of Fame DE Lee Roy Selmon.
In 1976, with the first-ever pick in the Buccaneers inaugural season, Tampa Bay selected Lee Roy Selmon out of the University of Oklahoma. In his rookie season, he won ‘rookie of the year’ and team MVP. Selmon also made 6 straight pro bowls, capped off with the Defensive player of the year award in 1979.
His career was cut short due to a recurring back injury and he was forced to retire after the 1984 season. Tampa Bay retired his number 63 during the 1986 season and in 1995, he was the first member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. It’s a testament to the man, the myth, the legend that after just 8 seasons in the NFL, he was given such an honor.
Next up, Hall of Fame DT Warren Sapp.
With the 12th pick in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft, Tampa Bay drafted Sapp out of the University of Miami. If not for a couple of failed drug tests for marijuana at Miami, Sapp would have gone much higher and we would have never had the chance to get such an unbelievable talent. He went on to play in a Buccaneers uniform for 9 seasons, and beginning with the 1997 season, he went to 7 straight Pro Bowls, and after the 1999 season, Sapp was honored as Defensive player of the year capped off with a ring in Super Bowl XXXVII.
After the 2003 season, as a free agent, Sapp signed with the Oakland Raiders ending his tenure with Tampa Bay. Warren Sapp wreaked havoc on opposing offenses and had many legendary sparring sessions with Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre. To go along with his 7 straight Pro Bowls, Sapp was also named First-Team All-Pro 4 times and Second-Team twice. He was also voted to the All-decades teams for the 1990’s and 2000’s. In 2013, Warren Sapp was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
Although Sapp finished his career in a different uniform, he will always be remembered as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, and possibly the greatest Buc to ever lace them up.
Now to our general, LB Derrick Brooks.
Tampa Bay traded both second rounds picks to the Dallas Cowboys for the 28th pick. With that 28th pick, the Buccaneers drafted LB Derrick Brooks out of Florida State. Brooks played his entire 14-year career with Tampa Bay. He was our unquestioned leader and field general, our very own defensive coordinator on the field.
As a linebacker, Derrick had the freedom to make plays all over the field, and that’s precisely what he did. Brooks would rush the passer and bury him into the ground one play, then return a 40 yard INT on the next. From his rookie season in 1995 until his final season in 2008, Derrick started 221 out of a possible 224 games and compiled historical stats including almost 1700 tackles, 13.5 sacks with 25 interceptions, and 6 touchdowns, making him just the second linebacker in NFL history to do so.
Brooks went to 11 Pro Bowls in his illustrious career, including 10 straight from 97-06 and was named the Defensive Player of the Year after our championship season in 2002. He is also on the All-decade team for the 2000’s. Derrick was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. As the anchor of the Monte Kiffin Tampa 2, Derrick Brooks revolutionized the linebacker position and a compelling argument could also be made that he is the greatest player to ever wear a Buccaneers uniform.
Last but not least, Ronde Barber.
Tampa Bay selected Barber in the third round of the 1997 NFL draft out of Virginia. He is one of only two players in NFL history to be in the 40-20 club, or having at least 40 interceptions and a minimum of 20 sacks. Barber was the perfect mold for a cornerback. He was smart, agile, and resilient. Ronde played for the Buccaneers from 1997 until his retirement at the end of the 2012 season.
In Barbers 15 years with the team, he compiled quite a bit of an accolade including 5 pro bowl selections and 3 first team All-Pro honors, and let all NFL players in interceptions for the 2001 season. Barber also had one of the most memorable interceptions in Tampa Bay Buccaneer history when, during the NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Barber intercepted Eagles quarterback Donavan McNabb and returned the pick for a 92-yard game-sealing touchdown, giving Tampa Bay its first-ever appearance in a Super Bowl. That was also the final game at Veterans Stadium and I like to think that Tampa Bay demoralized the Eagles so much, they decided to demolish the site of such a satisfying defeat, at least for us.
Barber was one of the longest tenured Buccaneers in franchise history and will always be remembered as the player that made the necessary play when it was needed the most. Barber retired after the 2012 season, and I honestly feel he will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day soon. Next year will be his first year of eligibility. I for one am keeping my fingers crossed that like the 3 players mentioned before him, he will represent our Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the halls of NFL history.
There have been many players that have come and gone from Tampa, and too many of them are remembered for failure, rather than success, these 4 are definitely an exception, as are a few that didn’t make my Mount Rushmore. Players such as John Lynch, Simeon Rice, Hardy Nickerson, and Sheldon Quarrels.
To date, all the great players in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been defensive players, but with the likes of famous Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, that may very well soon change.
Luckily, my Mount Rushmore isn’t set in stone, so there will be plenty of opportunities to update the names and faces, but as it stands now, these 4 are on my mountain.
(Featured Image Credit: NBC Sports Group.)