Buccaneer Selmon Dies at 56

Lee Roy Selmon, Hall of Fame defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, passed away on Sunday of a stroke at the age of 56.

In many ways, Selmon was the foundation of the Tamp Bay franchise.  When the team was formed as an expansion team in 1976, he was their first draft pick – the number one overall selection in the 1976 NFL draft.  He is also the only player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who spent most or all of his career in Tampa Bay.

Selmon attended the University of Oklahoma, where he teamed with his brother Dewey on national championship teams in 1974 and 1975.  Dewey was also drafted by the Buccaneers, in the second round of the 1976 draft, enabling them to play both college and professional football for the same team.

Although they weren’t twins, they were born only 11 months apart, and when Lee Roy was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Dewey was his presenter.  The two were very close throughout their life.  Dewey joked in his Hall of Fame presentation speech, “He could have picked from 1,000 people to have someone come and introduce him.  But he reached back and picked up the guy that took him to the prom.”

Lee Roy’s response, from his acceptance speech, was, “Now you know why I picked Dewey to be my date at the prom. He has always been a good date and a good roommate.”

Selmon was a force on the defensive side of the ball throughout his career.  After enduring Tampa Bay’s 0-14 first season, and 0-26 start before achieving their first victory, he led the Buccaneers to the NFC championship game in 1979, only two short years after their first hard-earned victory.

He was a six time Pro Bowl selection, and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979.  He was also voted to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.

Over his career, he recorded a total of 78 ½ sacks, 380 quarterback pressures, and forced 28 ½ fumbles, recovering ten.

The sports world is mourning his passing.

“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.”

The Glazer family, which owns the Buccaneers, released a statement as well: “Tampa Bay has lost another giant. This is an incredibly somber day for Buccaneer fans, Sooner fans, and all football fans. Lee Roy’s standing as the first Buc in the Hall of Fame surely distinguished him, but his stature off the field as the consummate gentleman put him in another stratosphere,” the statement said.

As Dewey said Hall of Fame introduction speech, “Maybe indeed it is God above that will say, ‘Lee Roy, job well done.’”

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