Happy Birthday goes out to former Buccaneer placekicker Neil O’Donoghue who is 66 years young today. In the ‘kick heard round the Bay’, O’Donoghue’s lone field goal, on a stormy December afternoon in Tampa Bay would continue the Buccaneers journey to the 1979 NFC Championship game, beating the Kansas City Chiefs that day 3-0.
The turf at the Old Sombrero was among the best in the NFL. If you ever got out onto the pitch at the old Tampa Stadium you would have been surprised to see that both sides tapered off quite dramtaically to each side, with the middle of the field being high ground. But even the best turf in the NFL was no match for the monsoon that came down on December 29th, 1979. To say that both teams were engaged in a defensive quagmire would be a good description of the play and playing conditions.
The only scoring that afternoon was the field goal by O’Donoghue. On a bad snap, 9th year veteran punter Tom Blanchard would somehow get the ball down in time for O’Donoghue to make the 19 yard field goal and allow the worst to first party in Tampa Bay to continue.
This was how the Buccaneers had scrapped, fought, clawed, and climbed from the cellar of the NFC Central, to near the top of the entire NFC heap. You can say all you want about those creamsicle uniforms with the winking pirate, Bucco Bruce. When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were making history that fateful season though, there was not many things more beautiful to Tampa Bay fans than those uniforms when they were so shiny and muddy.
So, wherever you find yourself today, June 18th, Neil O’Donoghue. Kick back, enjoy life. Happy Birthday, and thank you for the memories.
Photo credit: Asp.famousfix.com