Commentary | No debate: Lee Roy Selmon is greatest Buccaneer of them all

adell@bradenton.comJune 1, 2014 

Packers Buccaneers Football

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Leroy Selmon addresses the crowd at Raymond James Stadium as he is inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor during half time during an NFL football game against the Greenbay Packers Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)



This conversation should not be necessary.

But the honor of Lee Roy Selmon is at stake, and that demands extraordinary measures.

A national publication said last week that Derrick Brooks was the greatest Tampa Bay Buccaneer of all time and mentioned off-the-field activities as one of its criteria.

To add salt to the wound, it somehow clumped Selmon in with Warren Sapp.

Silly, silly, especially if we are adding off-the-field endeavors.

Sapp didn't have off-the-field endeavors. He had antics.

But this not about good cop, bad cop.

Selmon was a gentle giant who cast a shadow of hope and inspiration that extended way beyond the Tampa Bay area.

There might be some valid reason to debate the merits of Selmon and Brooks on the field, but it's no contest off the field. And Selmon didn't have the supporting casts that helped make Brooks and Sapp excel.

The late Selmon was in a class by himself.

This is not to be disrespectful to Brooks, who has distinguished himself off the field. But he is only halfway through his life.

Selmon did not just impact the Bucs. He touched all those around him.

You never left a conversation with Selmon feeling the same as when it began.

He made you think, and did it in an unassuming way.

It's a reason he is the person most responsible for putting the University of South Florida football program on the map -- and getting it into the then-Bowl Championship Series member Big East, which was a monumental achievement.

Selmon was sadly taken from us at the age of 56 in September 2011.

They don't make 'em like Lee Roy anymore.

On the field he was a ferocious defensive end who would tear your house down, plant your quarterback into the grass and then offer a hand after the whistle had blown.

Selmon was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1976 NFL Draft and first selection in the history of the Bucs franchise.

Those Bucs were worse than awful in the beginning.

Selmon suffered through that winless season in his inaugural campaign. In '79, he won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in leading the Bucs to the NFC title game and first winning season. He sparked the team to a division title in 1981. He played nine seasons and was a six time Pro Bowler.

A statement he made at his NFL Hall of Fame induction in 1995 summed up Lee Roy Selmon: "People have said, your parents are proud of you, but I am more proud of them."

When most people were in Lee Roy Selmon's presence they felt in awe, but that was the last thing he wanted.

"I believe the true legacy of Lee Roy Selmon lies within the kind of man he was. Lee Roy possessed a combination of grace, humility and dignity that is rare," said Barry Switzer, his coach at Oklahoma. "His engaging smile and gentleness left you feeling blessed to be in his presence. Best of all, he was all genuine."

The thing about Selmon is that everything came naturally. He didn't have to work on being a nice guy or go to counseling or sit in the coach's office to learn how to be a good teammate.

He was the perfect teammate in the game of the life. You can't force yourself to love other people or find the good in others.

Selmon had a knack for finding the best in people as if he had a homing device in his heart. He planted the seed for the Bucs' second turnaround in the 1990s and eventual Super Bowl title.

He is the greatest Tampa Bay Buc of all time. There should be no debate.

Is Freeman's career over?

The New York Giants gave former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman his freedom when they released him a few days ago.

The sad part is that Freeman might be free, but he is a prisoner of his own mind, which has not been acting very rationally since last season when the quarterback was released by the Bucs.

He went to Minnesota, where reports surfaced that Freeman was late for meetings just as he was for the Bucs.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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