Hardy Nickerson – LB (1993 – 1999)
Hardy Nickerson may not be on television, or the Buccaneers Ring of Honor (he probably should be), the Hall of Fame (again, maybe should be his name always comes up), or even an offensive guy when it comes to his past and what kind of coach he would be. So on those fronts, he’s already behind the 8-ball on the other names mentioned.
Do you know what Nickerson has that all of the others, including Jeff Saturday, do not? Actual coaching experience in the NFL. So yeah, kind of a big deal.
Nickerson served as the linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears in 2007 and the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. He also was the head coach at Bishop O’Dowd High School in California from 2010 to 2013, as well as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at the University of Illinois from 2016 to 2018.
In 2014 and 2015 he just so happened to be the linebackers coach for the same Tampa Bay Buccaneers that he was a stud linebacker for in the 1990s. The Bucs signed Nickerson in 1993, the very first year of NFL free agency as we know it today, where he was a mainstay until 1999. With the Bucs, he was named first-team All-Pro in 1993 and 1997, second-team All-Pro in 1996 and 199 and was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He accomplished all of those while also being named to the NFL’s Team of the 1990s.
Nickerson saw the good, the bad, and the ugly with the Buccaneers, and it’s a darn shame he never got to cross the finish line with the 2002 squad. However, he was the veteran in the room while that young defense grew, and he can be credited, along with others, with leading them to the promised land, even if he didn’t get there himself. For what it’s worth, the 1999 defense may have been better than the 2002 defense, but that’s a debate for another day.
If more craziness were to happen and a situation arose where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to bring in an outside presence that was a former player to take over in the interim, we can’t think of anyone better than Hardy Nickerson. Now say it with us because you know you miss doing so in Raymond James Stadium “HARDY! HARDY! HARDY!”