For the 39th time since joining the NFL in 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take part in the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting, otherwise known as the NFL Draft.
The NFL Draft is recognized as the lifeblood for building NFL teams. As Bucs fans eagerly await this year’s NFL Draft, let’s reflect for a moment on past players selected and who would be considered the best player ever drafted by the Buccaneers.
Although Bucs fans have had to develop a thick skin enduring many lean years since the inaugural 1976 season, the Bucs faithful have also been treated with some of the best players of all time during this same period. There are several players on the current Bucs roster who if they remain healthy and play at their current level will certainly be in the conversation as one of the best players to have ever worn the creamsicle uniforms of old or the current pewter, red and black.
So who is he? Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber, or Mike Alstott from the Dungy years culminating in their Super Bowl Championship season? How about their first few years when the Bucs played in the NFC Championship game in only their fourth year of existence led by Lee Roy Selmon, his brother Dewey Selmon, Ricky Bell, or Doug Williams? Let’s not forget the long years in the desert in which the Bucs slogged through fourteen consecutive losing seasons. Players like Hugh Green, James Wilder, Vinny Testaverde, Mark Carrier, Paul Gruber, and Trent Dilfer who all had Pro Bowl seasons.
For me, the best pick the Buccaneers ever made was their very first, Lee Roy Selmon. Selmon embodies all the attributes a team professes to hold with draft picks, especially when it is the first pick in the Draft as was the case with Selmon. Team management as well as fans often savor and hold precious the first pick in the NFL draft. It may seem to be an invaluable commodity because your team literally has the pick of the litter. The team with the first pick as well as its fans will generally expect this player to provide immediate, become an All Pro for many years to come, thrown in with being a model franchise representative and asset to the community. History sadly shows that few players drafted, including the 1st pick in the draft, can live up to these lofty expectations. Lee Roy Selmon seemed at least worthy of the first pick. As one of the most celebrated collegiate football players in history, this Eufaula, Oklahoma native, did not only lead the Oklahoma Sooners to two NCAA National Championships and holder of the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy Award, but was also a scholar athlete. How successfully he could transition to the NFL remained to be seen.
We are all painfully aware of storied collegiate All Americans never successfully living up to expectations when in the NFL. Not Lee Roy Selmon. He exceeded expectations. Since his rookie season when he played for arguably the most hapless team in NFL history, Selmon was selected as his teams Rookie of the Year and its Most Valuable Player. Known as the “Gentle Giant,” Selmon steadily improved his game regardless of the mediocrity of many of his teammates surrounding him which allowed opposing offenses to double and triple team him. His leadership and quality as a player became the driving force behind leading one of the most vaunted defenses in the NFL in only his fourth season. Named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, Selmon went on to 6 consecutive Pro Bowls, adding impressive sack totals and forced fumbles while developing the reputation as one of the greatest defensive ends in NFL history.
With his career cut short after nine seasons with the Buccaneers, Lee Roy exhibited another quality not always shown by former NFL players. His contributions to the Tampa Bay community were as significant as his on the field exploits.
First working as a banking executive Selmon served the University of South Florida as an Assistant Athletic Director and then promoted to the position of Athletic Director at the same school. Selmon’s leadership and vision as the USF Athletic Director led to the launching of its football program, the construction of a new athletic facility and gaining his school’s entrance into the Conference USA and then the Big East Conference.
After resigning as Athletic Director in 2004, citing health issues, Selmon took on the position of president of the USF Foundation Partnership for Athletes which is an athletics fund-raising organization.
After Selmon’s untimely death at the age of 56 in September, 2011 he was appropriately recognized by the NFL and the Tampa Bay community for his unequaled impact both on and off the field.
Lee Roy Selmon. Thank you for all you gave to Bucs fans and the people of the Tampa Bay community. Best draft pick the Buccaneers ever made.