Paul Gruber, a fixture at left tackle for 12 years, became the latest Buccaneer to become inducted into the team's Ring of Honor. Gruber will be inducted at halftime of the October 14 game against Kansas City. Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer called Gruber "A Buccaneer Man, before we talked about Buccaneer Men."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers inducted former offensive tackle Paul Gruber into the team’s Ring of Honor. The festivities will occur during halftime of the October 14 home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Gruber becomes the fourth member of the Buccaneers Ring of Honor, joining Hall of Fame defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, head coach John McKay and last year’s inductee, tight end Jimmie Giles.
“Paul was a Buccaneer Man, before we talked about Buccaneer Men,” said Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer. “He went on to become everything you would want in a left tackle or family man; dependable, dependable, dependable.
“For a dozen years he lined up against the fiercest and loudest pass rushers the opposition had to offer, and quietly proceeded to give them all they could handle.”
Gruber, a fixture at left tackle, spent his entire 12-year career with the Buccaneers. He started in all 183 games he played, ranking as the fourth-most games played and third-most games started in team history.
“I’m overwhelmed by this honor,” Gruber said. “Honestly, it’s surreal to think that my name and number will be a permanent fixture in the stadium.”
Along with Gruber, the Buccaneers will be commemorating the success of the 1997 team during halftime of the Chiefs game. The Glazers said that this year’s throwback game will not coincide with the Ring of Honor induction and that the Bucs will feature their orange and white “Bucco Bruce” uniforms the following week against New Orleans.
One of the most decorated players in team history, Gruber was named a two-time team MVP (Tampa Sports Club, 1992; local media, 1994), the franchise’s Ed Block Courage Award winner (1995), first-team All-Pro (USA Today, 1996), two-time second-team All-Pro (College and Pro Football Newsweekly, 1990; Associated Press, 1992), two-time All-NFC selection (United Press International, 1989; Football News, 1990) and a Pro Bowl alternate in 1997.
Gruber was selected in the first round (fourth overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft, and opened his career with a remarkable string of 4,850 consecutive snaps (1988-92). He also played the entire 1989 campaign without a holding penalty and was instrumental in helping the 1999 Buccaneers win a division title, the franchise’s first in 18 years.
After his opening statement, Gruber conducted a Q&A session with members of the local media. The following is a transcript of Gruber’s comments:Was this announcement something that surprised you and was it even in the back of your mind at all?
“Honestly, I was surprised I guess. I’ve been away from football for 12 years and just living in Colorado and so on, I’m not probably as engaged with what’s going on with the Bucs as if I was living here in Tampa. It’s kind of hard to get my hands around it I guess. Really football is just something I did 12 years ago and there are a lot of other things that fill my time now. But it’s a tremendous honor and I was thrilled and really excited to be able to have the opportunity to come back to Tampa and kind of reunite with the organization.”How often have you been back in Tampa?
“We were talking I guess when I came in last night with my family and I think the last time I was back was about six or seven years ago. I know it was before this building was built. I think the facility was in the process of being constructed at the time.”Have you been to any Bucs games?
“No I haven’t. I did go to the Super Bowl and that was probably the last Bucs games that I attended.”How meaningful is it to you to be a part of the renaissance of the franchise, having worked so hard to get the franchise to that level?
“It’s a tremendous honor. When I was a young player, and throughout my career, I looked up to Lee Roy Selmon and I remember when I got drafted he was one of the first guys that I met. I was close to the McKay family throughout my career and a part of it with Jimmie Giles, who I didn’t know personally at the time, but I certainly knew of the accomplishments that he had in his career. Like I said it’s kind of hard for me to get my mind wrapped around it I guess. As a player I was kind of in the midst of some of those older Bucs, a few of the guys that played with them in the playoff years. Then there was the 14 years of poor Buc football, if you wanted to say that, and then to kind of be around for the transition and the guys that were part of the Super Bowl team – I guess I’ve [seen the full spectrum of] Buccaneers football.”You’ve always been respected for the way you carry yourself. Where does that come from?
“I think definitely my family had a big part in it and probably just the environment that I grew up in. Growing up in a small town and just the work ethic that’s instilled, I’d have to credit that to my parents and just the community.”At the end of your career you were lying on a training table at Chicago listening to the cheers of Bucs fans from outside your room. Does that kind of encapsulate your career, that there was a little bit of pain but at the end it seemed to end with a smile?
“Yeah it may. I guess I hadn’t thought about it at that time. To be able to play for 12 years and stay injury-free as I was – I was blessed. I really would have enjoyed the opportunity to be able to play those last two playoff games. I’d like to think that I would have had a positive impact on the outcome of the game, but that’s life. Football was always part of my life. I always felt blessed just to be able to close that part off whenever I went home at night and spent time with my family. It’s just life. I’ve had a lot of life experiences and I think just with my father dying when I was in high school and stuff, it just helps you to kind of have a little bit different perspective on things. It was definitely a little bit disappointing, but sometimes that’s just the way things go.”Throughout your long stretch of consecutive starts, was there a time when you thought you had to sit or did you come close at any point? What was the worst injury that you had to play with?
“I had an MCL [issue], a knee, some sprained ankles along the way, but I’m kind of fortunate I guess that towards the end of my career Tony [Dungy] did a good job of managing my practice schedule, so that helped. I guess as you get older it takes a lot longer to recover from Sunday so there are a lot of factors that play into it. One of the things that I’ve always had a lot of pride in was my preparation during the offseason and during the season, so I think that helps as well.”You were always know for your demeanor that you’ve been displaying here, just very consistent, but John Lynch also said you had a mean streak to you. What was it about you and [former Bears defensive end] Alonzo Spellman that got the best of you one game?
“You do kind of have to be able to turn it on and off and maybe being nice all the time kind of leaves it bottled up for Sunday. He was a guy that was in our division so it was always competitive. He was also an Ohio State Buckeye so that also kind of worked against him. I just don’t know what happened. Things kind of got out of hand and it was an intense moment, so I guess that’s all I can say.”Talk about what has occupied you since you have retired from football.
“Well when I was getting prepared to come and speak today and get my mind around being a Buc again, I was looking at my retirement speech, and to answer your question I think primarily most of my time has been spent with my family. The last ten years my kids have all kind of went through high school with my daughter graduating a couple weeks ago. That’s probably been the primary focus of my life right now. I’ve kind of dabbled with a number of different things, primarily real estate related. We live in a great place and I really enjoy the outdoors, being in the mountains, hiking and outdoor activities. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing for the last few years.”– Andrew Scavelli and Scott Reynolds contributed to this report
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