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October 12, 2012 @ 10:57 am
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Gruber Enters The Ring Of Honor A True Buccaneer Man

Written by Dory
Dory LeBlanc


Beat Writer E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Paul Gruber played all 12 years of his NFL career with Tampa Bay. Known mostly by longtime Bucs fans for his hard work, dedication, and perseverance, Gruber's No. 74 will be revealed in the Buccaneers Ring of Honor at halftime today.
Sometimes, people don’t immediately get the credit they deserve. Sometimes, it takes years to really appreciate their hard work and dedication.

Such was the 12-year career of Paul Gruber. Sunday No. 74 will be revealed on the wall at Raymond James Stadium and into the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor forever.

Finally, Gruber will get the recognition he deserves.

At halftime, the Bucs will honor Gruber along with the 1997 team. Gruber said he chose that specific year because that was the team that he felt best epitomized the turnaround in the franchise. 

“For me, of all the seasons I played, I think it was the one that was the most satisfying.” Gruber said. “It was kind of a turning point in the organization. I think my contract came up in ’96 and I had some choices to make and I remember sitting down with Tony (Dungy) and it kind of felt we were on the right path. You know, everything just came together that year - at least what our expectations were and probably exceeded the expectations of the community at that time.”

It also happened to be the Bucs’ final season playing in Tampa Stadium, and the team sent the Old Sombrero out with a bang.

“I think one of the most memorable games for me was the last game at Tampa Stadium against Detroit in the playoff game. Just taking that out in a playoff atmosphere with a win, and after playing there for nine years, and the stadium, and all the things everything you go through from an emotional standpoint it was just cool. So, for me, ’97 was my most memorable year.”

Gruber was one of the most dependable Buccaneers in history, and his 183 games started was a franchise-best until 2007 when former-linebacker Derrick Brooks broke the record. Another one of Gruber’s former teammates, Ronde Barber, will tie Brooks' mark for 221 Buccaneer starts Sunday. 

Selected in the first round of the 1988 draft out of Wisconsin, Gruber was often overlooked in favor of bigger named players, but through the dozen years he was a Buccaneer, no one was perhaps more consistent.

Bucs head coach Greg Schiano was an assistant in Chicago for a period of time when Gruber played and spoke after practice Friday about Gruber, calling him “One of those legitimate tough guys” but admitted as a secondary coach, watching the opposing team’s offensive linemen wasn’t one of his job duties. 

“I was a secondary guy so I didn’t pay a whole bunch of attention to those big guys. But, when you listen to the people around here and listen to Coach (Tony) Dungy and listen to all the guys that were around, he just did his job and those were the great examples for how you – those were some tough times and he was one of the guys that fought through it. 

“And people may not recognize, but those are the bridges to the good times, the guys that will fight their rear end off no matter the circumstance. We have a saying around here, ‘Circumstance cannot dictate our behavior’ and guys like that, who just continually keep going one play at a time and doing their job, that’s how you build something.”

Gruber, indeed, was a major contributor to bridge the good times. For years, the Bucs struggled with many lowly, win-deprived seasons until the 1997 team made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Two years after Gruber retired, Tampa Bay won Super Bowl XXXVII. 

Since retiring, Gruber has stepped away from football for the most part. The festivities surrounding his induction in the Ring of Honor have been the most involved Gruber’s been in years.  

“I enjoyed it while I was doing it,” Gruber said, “And I enjoy the NFL, watching it and being around it, but I knew it wasn’t really something that I wasn’t going to be involved in on a daily basis.

“I didn’t want to do it (coaching) because I knew the time commitment and the sacrifices those guys make with regards to their families and everything, that really didn’t interest me. I did coach my kids a little bit when they were in high school. I helped coach on the teams while they were playing. 

“I enjoy being around football and being around young people. I’d consider getting into college coaching a little bit, but I don’t know that I’d every want to do it in the NFL, or even high school. That’s difficult from a maturity standpoint.”

When it comes to following the team he played for his entire career, Gruber, who now resides in Colorado, said he tries to keep up as much as he can, but isn’t able to watch many games. 

“I know what’s going on but it’s not much more than highlights.” Gruber said. “We don’t get the Bucs games. We had it (NFL Sunday Ticket) for awhile; I just didn’t watch enough football. I like watching the games at night; I didn’t watch it all day long. I’d rather be outside in the fall and the winter.”

Gruber met the current Bucs head coach when the Buccaneers made the announcement about his induction in June and feels Schiano is leading the team in the right direction. 

“[I] Just met him (Schiano) when I was back here in June,” Gruber said, “But he seems like he’s got a young team and he’s trying to instill some discipline and so on but it seems like this is maybe kind of his transition year, trying to get the guys to do things the way he’d like them done as opposed to the way they’ve been done previously. 

“That’s always a challenging season, but it seems they’re playing very well, just haven’t been able to close games at the end. Hopefully they can start closing this weekend. They have a tough schedule, too, when you look at it, having the Giants and then go to Dallas. Those are tough places to play.”

The University Of Wisconsin Hall Of Famer has a few jerseys and helmets in his office, but mostly, the memorabilia from his playing days is stored in his barn or in plastic containers in his closet. After 12 years, you collect a lot of it. 

What you also collect is respect. 

Although Gruber isn’t the most recognizable player for the eras which he played, he is undoubtedly one of the most respected, as evidenced by placement in the Ring of Honor.  

Gruber, who is soft-spoken and humble but speaks about being a Buc with a radiant smile, said doing his job is what he wants to be remembered most for. 

“Just consistency and perseverance and preparation.” Gruber said. “That was always something that I took pride in.”

Tampa Bay is honoring Gruber for exactly those three things. Sometimes, people don’t immediately get the credit they deserve. Sometimes, it takes years to really appreciate their hard work and dedication. For Paul Gruber, all that changes today. 
Last modified on Sunday, 14 October 2012 18:31

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    If you don't love Paul Gruber it says more about you that it does about him. What a fine individual.
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    A very deserving Honor.
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