Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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Hardy Nickerson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
24 Nov 1996: Tight end Henry Lusk of the New Orleans Saints gets tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Hardy Nickerson and safety John Lynch during a game at Houlihan”s Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers won the game, 13-7. Mandatory Credit: /

Linebacker. (1993-99). Hardy Nickerson. 8. player. 48.

The second-best linebacker in Buccaneers history is Hardy Nickerson, but on a lot of other teams, he may have been the best. I will explain why in a little bit, but most people probably already know who No. 1 is. Nonetheless, Nickerson is one of the best linebackers to play the game, and was a huge piece of the 1990s Tampa Bay teams, and that may be putting it lightly.

Nickerson might have began his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers coming out of California. However, he is best remembered for his seven seasons in Tampa Bay, in which he dominated the middle of the team’s defense. A force capable of laying the wood while also capable of tracking running backs and tight ends, Nickerson held down the middle linebacker position from 1993 to 1999.

After joining the Buccaneers prior to the 1993 season, expectations were high for Nickerson. He turned around and blew them out of the water. In 1993, Nickerson played in every game for the team, recording an interception and  a sack in the process.

He was rewarded for his stellar season with Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Not too shabby right? He did the same in 1997, and added three other Pro-Bowl seasons in 1996, 1998 and 1999.

Seven seasons, five Pro Bowls, two All-Pros, and although not an official stat, 680 career tackles with the Buccaneers. That is the mark of a Hall of Famer, but Nickerson has yet to be inducted.

Following his playing career, Nickerson bounced around coaching roles and is currently the defensive coordinator at the University of Illinois for former Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith. Nickerson is a team and league legend, and as such, he comes in at No. 8 all-time in Tampa Bay franchise history.