Doing a top ten list of all-time Buccaneers is like picking up a fallen box of toothpicks. It’s easy to grab most of them. The hard part is picking up those last few. The very nature of this list is that Buccaneers fans will have their own reason to have a different slant on their list. It could be generational. Some like to be defensive. Some are just plain offensive. The one thing making a list like this guarantees is the memories.
Ray Kennedy’s Top-Ten All-Time Players
10. Doug Williams
It was the third year of the Buccaneers’ existence. Even with a building defense and having drafted Ricky Bell the year before, this team needed an identity that could also play quarterback. Considered the best quarterback in the draft, Williams was the first African-American quarterback to be drafted in the first round. With a rising defense and a scrappy group of rag-tag pirates, Doug Williams brought the smooth.
9. Paul Gruber
This Wisconsin native brought his lunch pail to work every day. Playing left tackle and going against the best defensive ends in the league each week, Paul Gruber more than held his own. After not missing a snap in his first five years in the league, during his twelfth year he would break his leg late in the season and miss the 1999 playoffs that season that would end in the championship game against St. Louis.
8. Hardy Nickerson
After playing for Chuck Noll in Pittsburgh, the Buccaneers landed the most significant free agent to that date. A decade after the Doug Williams debacle, the signing of an up and comer of Nickerson’s ilk hung the sign out for the NFL world to see. Tampa Bay was getting back in business. Hardy Nickerson made five Pro Bowls from 1993 to 1999 and was the veteran catalyst for a defense Tony Dungy would soon begin building.
7. Mike Evans
The best wide receiver that has ever played for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has had its fair share of wide receivers pass through Tampa Bay. There were some studs. There were some duds (see Alvin Harper). When the rest of the NFL world was praising Johnny football at Texas A&M, Buccaneers’ general manager Jason Licht got the right end of the Aggie connection. Drafting Evans at number seven of the first round. Mike Evans has been making defenses look stupid ever since.
6. John Lynch
You didn’t just go into Mr. Lynch’s Neighborhood. Some players have trouble turning it on. John Lynch could not turn it off! Lynch was a leader on a defense full of leaders. In a divisional game against the Chicago Bears in 1997, Lynch would knock his brother-in-law, Bears rookie tight end John Allred, out cold while the Allred family watched from a suite above at Soldier Field.
5. Ronde Barber
The baby of the Dungy Bunch, Ronde would also end up the last man standing. He would make five Pro Bowls, lead the NFL in interceptions in 2001, make the NFL All 2000s team, and win a Super Bowl. His last year in 2012 he would play all sixteen games of the season for the thirteenth year in a row. He would retire the active leader in defensive touchdowns with 14, and the best rushing defensive back of all time with 28 sacks.
4. Mike Alstott
You did not go to a Buccaneers game without your whistle. Like a middle American town at the turn of the twentieth century. When you heard the train whistle, you knew something exciting had arrived. Hands like a wide receiver, strength like a bull. For a franchise that had spent most of its existence being bullied, it felt so good to ride the “A-Train.”
3. Derrick Brooks
Rub two nickels together and what you get is the best linebacker in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history. From growing up in Pensacola to attending Florida State, and then eventually being drafted by the Buccaneers in the first round of the 1995 draft. Derrick Brooks never left Florida, but the world knew his name. A confident swagger with large doses of class. A fourteen-year career that saw 11 Pro Bowls, NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a Walter Payton Man of the Year award, and a bust in Canton.
2. Warren Sapp
I believe people think I’m exaggerating when I say I cried the day Warren Sapp fell to the Buccaneers at number 12 in the 1995 draft with the best “get off” I have ever seen. Sapp could be a jerk and never have to apologize for it. A trash talker that could turn on the crazy with the best of them, Warren Sapp was hated by the fans of every team the Buccaneers played. It was the same fans that could not take their eyes off of him. He would get into opposing backfields so fast you would think he called the snap count. His mayhem and showboat antics allowed the rest of the Tony Dungy defense to do its thing.
1. Lee Roy Selmon
This one took me a while. Yes, he is the O.G. as he was the Buccaneers’ first Hall of Fame member and also the first draft pick in team history. If an argument can never be made as to why cities build stadiums to keep professional teams, an argument should be made as to what it meant to keep a Tampa Bay citizen like Lee Roy Selmon here. I remember the day my Dad came home and asked me at ten years old if I would like to go meet Mr. Selmon. Back in those days, Chevron was a big Buccaneers sponsor, and he had come out to Largo to meet fans. We got to the station, and they had set #63 up in his own bay. We were the only people there. My father was a police officer so the 7-3 schedule worked great that day. Lee Roy Selmon took twenty minutes to talk to us. My dad was the biggest man I had ever noticed until that day. When I saw my dad’s hand disappear in Lee Roy’s paw, I thought he was a god. In the end, he kind of was.
Unlike Al Keck’s list, I kept the list at ten (wink, wink). In recognition of his infinite wisdom though, yes, I could have easily gone way beyond that. The best thing about this list is that there will be the usual suspects. There may be a surprise or two. The list is your list. Whether it be by knowledge, pure talent, salary, or the memories a Buccaneer player may kindle within the heart. The list should always remain in a state of flux. I wonder what Bucs Report draft analyst and millennial stat head Nick Sitro’s list would look like?
As those who know me know. I’ve had a thing for Buccaneer kickers since forever. Neil O’Donoghue, Garo Yepremian, Donald Igwebuike, Michael Husted. One of the biggest scandals in Buccaneers’ history involved a kicker. When Head Coach Sam Wyche took Steve Christie off the protected list and he would escape to the Buffalo Bills.
Automatica Gramatica was just the right pistol-packing savage to kick for the Buccaneers through the Dungy years. I mean the dude’s middle name is Turpentine. That’s SWAG. Way too many games came down to a field goal, and he could make them. This might be sentimental. It might be pure genius. But put #7 on my honorable mention. Do you remember how tight Buccaneers games were from 1999 to 2002? Could you imagine if those years fell now? Considering the Buccaneers kicking history over the last couple. Yeah, me too.