Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Top 5 running backs in Buccaneers’ history

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ricky Bell #42 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Number 5: Ricky Bell

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the first overall pick in the 1977 NFL Draft, after going 0-14 in 1976, their inaugural season. With the first overall pick, the Bucs selected the dominant running-back out of USC, Ricky Bell.

During this era of the NFL, the running back was the most important position on the team, much like the quarterback is today. The Buccaneers were the worst team in the league in ’76, and so they knew they needed their franchise player, and that player was Bell.

In his rookie season, Bell was the best player on a very bad Buccaneers team. The team went 2-12 but Bell rushed for a respectable 436 yards on 148 rushing attempts and had one rushing touchdown. Although the team was bad, they knew that they had something special in Bell.

The following year, Bell did much better, rushing for 679 yards, but it wasn’t until his third year that he truly became one of the great running backs in Buccaneers’ history.

In 1979, Bell started in all 16 games and rushed for a career-high 1,263 yards on 283 attempts. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry while rushing for seven touchdowns. He also added 248 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Thanks in large part to Bell’s play, the 1979 Buccaneers team won their division and for the first time in franchise history, they made a playoff appearance. They went on to win their first-ever playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, before ultimately falling to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship.

Bell finished his career with over 3,000 rushing yards and played five of his six seasons in Tampa. Sadly, in 1984, two years after he retired from football, he passed away from complications due to a heart condition called dermatomyositis.

He will always be remembered as one of the greatest running backs in Buccaneers’ franchise history and was a Buccaneer through and through.