TAMPA — Hearts will be heavy when the Bucs open up the season at home against the Detroit Lions on September 11th. Not only will that particular day be filled with grief-stricken memories of a tragic day, the Bucs will have to double up on the somber tone.
Lee Roy Selmon, the original Buccaneer legend, died on Saturday — two days after being rushed to the hospital after suffering a stroke .
His wife Claybra released a statement saying the 56 year old died surrounded by family at a Tampa hospital.
“For all his accomplishments on and off the field, to us Lee Roy was the rock of our family. This has been a sudden and shocking event and we are devastated by this unexpected loss,” the statement said.
-Claybra Selmon, wife of the late Lee Roy Selmon
Selmon wasn’t only a legendary Buccaneer on the field, but he was instrumental to football operations off the field for not only the Buccaneers but for football in Florida all together. Selmon was a driving force behind getting a football program at South Florida, who honored him on Saturday by wearing his number on their helmets.
“We all loved him, and we’re all deeply saddened,” USF President Judy Genshaft said. “We’re a better university because of Lee Roy Selmon. He was an incredible role model, who cared about all of our student-athletes, no matter what sport. He built an incredible legacy and he will never be forgotten.”
Selmon served as Athletic Director at USF from 2001-2003.
He is a legend in South Florida for his help in creating the Bulls, but he started making a name for himself even before he arrived in Tampa with the Buccaneers.
Selmon and his brothers Dewey and Lucious played collegiality at Oklahoma University where, in 1974, Lee Roy exploded into a standout star. He helped the Sooners win the National Championship in 1974 and ’75, winning the Lombardi Award for Best College Linebacker and the Outland Trophy for the Best Interior Lineman in the latter year.
“No Sooner player cast a longer shadow over its rich tradition than Lee Roy,” former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer said in a statement. “Beyond his many and great accomplishments, 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. His engaging smile and gentleness left you feeling blessed to be in his presence. Best of all, he was all genuine. One would be blessed to have a father, son, uncle, brother, or friend like Lee Roy Selmon.”
Probably the best personal experience during his time at Oklahoma for Selmon, was being teamed up on the same defensive line with his two brothers, Dewey and Lucious. The trio played the whole 1973 season together on the field and are still, to this day, regarded as the most famous set of brothers to grace Oklahoma University.
After finishing his College career with the Sooners, Selmon was drafted as the first ever draft selection for the newly created Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He didn’t go to Tampa alone, as brother Dewey was a second round pick for the Bucs. Selmon went on to be perhaps one of the greatest, if not the greatest Buccaneer the franchise has seen.
A lot of his status as a legend in Tampa comes from Selmon being the first of his kind in a Bucs uniform. By this, Selmon was a freak; a powerful superstar and a defensive stud that gave the team something to get behind. Because let’s be honest: they weren’t going anywhere vary fast after their conception. Selmon raked in the accolades in a Bucs uniform, winning the team’s Rookie of the Year and MVP award in his first season. He went on to play in six Pro Bowls wearing creamsicle colors as well as winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1979.
“The guy just worked as hard as you could ever work and was just a great guy,” said former Tampa Bay teammate Bill Kollar, now the Houston Texans’ assistant head coach and defensive line coach.
Selmon finished his career with the Buccaneers in 1984 after suffering a back injury. He finished his NFL career with 742 tackles and 78 1/2 sacks. The Buccaneers made his number the first number the franchise ever retired, and they did it a mere 2 years after his retirement. When the Buccaneers started their Ring of Honor, Selmon was the hands down choice as inaugural inductee.
That right there shows you how much Lee Roy Selmon meant to the Buccaneers.
In 2008, Selmon was voted by NFL Players and Coaches as a member of Pro Football Weekly‘s All-Time 3-4 Defensive Team which etched his name along side NFL legends like Harry Carson, Curley Culp, Randy Gradishar, Howie Long, Lawrence Taylor and Andre Tippett. He was also elected to the Florida Sports Hall of Fame and in 1988 was elected as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
In 1995, Selmon was officially recognized and solidified as an NFL legend when he became the first member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Selmon’s bust was presented by his brother Dewey. Selmon took time to thank all the people involved in his Hall of Fame career from his wife, to his Oklahoma coaches, to the Buccaneers and even to a nameless fan who showed support every week.
“I am so appreciative of someone in Tampa Bay,” Selmon said in his Hall of Fame Speech. “Who always put a sign in the corner of the end zone that said, ‘Lee Roy Selmon for the Hall of Fame.’ I don’t know who that was, but that is very special. It shows you the kind of people that live in the Tampa Bay area.”
Selmon showed his love Tampa and South Florida post his NFL career by giving it college football and giving kids a chance to start out like he did.
Guys — strike that — MEN like Lee Roy Selmon don’t come around a lot. We see that everyday with the basic happenings of society and the society within both collegiate and pro football. He was a man who loved football as much as he loved people and that was amplified by his big heart outside the gridiron. Bucs fans, players and the organization as a whole, feel a hole in their hearts and in their very soul because a big part of it is now gone forever.
Maybe, just maybe the good will and passion Lee Roy Selmon had for all things football, all things people and all things life will be passed on and shared with all generations of Bucs players and fans. Sunday will be a tough day to deal with, but the legacy of Lee Roy Selmon is cemented in Tampa and his soul will never be forgotten.
There will always be a sign in the endzone for Lee Roy Selmon, and there will always be Lee Roy Selmon in all our hearts.