By JOEY JOHNSTON | The Tampa Tribune
Published: November 8, 2009
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TAMPA - When the ceremony was done, when he was away from the crowd, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Lee Roy Selmon could no longer contain his emotions.
"It's home,'' Selmon said, explaining why Sunday afternoon's honor, becoming the first player in the franchise's new Ring of Honor was so meaningful.
On the field, Selmon was surrounded by family and nearly three-dozen of his former teammates. When the deafening chant from Raymond James Stadium finally died down – "Lee Roy! Lee Roy! Lee Roy! Lee Roy!'' – he spoke humbly and thanked everyone for the honor.
Selmon's words set the tone for Throwback Sunday, when the Bucs donned their old orange uniforms, honored the 1979 NFC Central Division champions, then actually won a game, ending their 0-for-2009 streak with a 38-28 victory against the Green Bay Packers.
Selmon, the former defensive end and the most decorated player in franchise history, became the first member of the team's Ring of Honor. On the East side's standard, a permanent display was unveiled – 63 SELMON – and the franchise will add to the Ring each season.
Personal honors are nothing new for Selmon, who already has been inducted into the Pro Football and College Football halls of fame. But being recognized in Tampa, while old teammates such as Doug Williams, Richard Wood, David Lewis, Mark Cotney and Cecil Johnson looked on, was more than Selmon could handle.
He had promised his family he wouldn't cry.
But once off the field, in the presence of wife Claybra, his three children and his granddaughter, that facade couldn't last.
"This is where I grew up in the NFL,'' Selmon said. "All I know is here. For the franchise to do this, to have that kind of generorsity, it's overwhelming. It's not an obligation. There's nothing anywhere that says they have to do this. So it tells you a lot.''
Dewey Selmon, a linebacker on the 1979 team, said the combination of a reunion with former teammates, plus the presence of nearly 40 family members, made it an unforgettable weekend for his younger brother.
"This just shows Lee Roy's character,'' Dewey Selmon said. "He is a loving, giving, emotional person. When we played here in 1979, we loved each other then and we still do. We're still in it together.
"We felt it was like a family thing back then and it still is. This was a great day for Lee Roy, for all Buccaneers and the current team as well. It brought back a lot of memories for how it used to be. It felt the same.''
It also looked the same.
Orange, orange, everywhere.
"I love it! Let's stay with the orange,'' said Luis Melendez of Tampa. "I always had pride in it. I know some people don't like the color, but I still bleed orange.''
Miguel Fleitas, who used to sell programs at the old Tampa Stadium, said he hasn't missed a home game since the franchise began in 1976, broke out an orange Buccaneer dress shirt he hasn't worn in years.
Robert Starkey, a dedicated follower since the beginning, dug out an old Buccaneer wristwatch. The leather band snapped off and it needed batteries.
"But it's still running,'' Starkey said. "The old look is still going to be good for us.''
Raymond James Stadium was awash in orange. The Bucs' cheerleaders were dressed in old-school Swash-buc-lers outfits, complete with orange-and-white pom-pons. Orange Buccaneer flags flew around the stadium. The afternoon included disco music from the era.
There was even an unexpected 1970s reference. Just before the halftime ceremony honoring Selmon, police arrested a streaker.
As the unclothed man was led away under the stadium, a Highway Patrolman took a quick look and sighed.
"Now there's a real Throwback uniform.''