Click here to to view photos from Alstott's press conference
With punishing carries and train whistles echoing at Bucs home games, fullback Mike Alstott quickly became a fan favorite in Tampa Bay and brought back memories of bruising backs like Washington's John Riggins and Miami's Larry Csonka. However, the "A-Train" came to its final destination on Thursday when Alstott announced his retirement for the Tampa Bay organization and the NFL in a press conference held at 10:00 a.m. at One Buccaneer Place.
Alstott, who missed all of the 2007 season with a reoccurring neck injury, was the most beloved player in Tampa Bay's 31-year history in the league. His No. 40 jersey was the most popular selling item early in his career and he was a major reason for the turnaround of a Bucs franchise that was synonymous with losing. That's why it was so hard for Alstott to say goodbye to the fans and the organization that had stood by him his entire career.
There was some thought as the 2006 season came to end with the Bucs finishing 4-12 that Alstott was ready to call it quits. However, the Bucs re-signed the popular fullback to a one-year deal and Alstott believed he had one more year of football left in him. It wasn't meant to be as the 12-year veteran re-injured his neck, which forced him to miss the entire 2003 season, and was placed on injured reserve during training camp.
His career with the Bucs has been filled with accomplishments from six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, winning the Super Bowl in 2002 and setting the record for most rushing touchdowns (58) and total touchdowns (71). He's second in franchise history in rushing yards with 5,088, third on the scoring list with 432 points – first non-kicker in team history to surpass the 400-point plateau – and the Bucs were 44-14 in the regular season when he scored a touchdown.
Even though his role in the offense began to diminish after his neck injury in 2003, Alstott never wavered from his team-first mindset and understood his role on team. He understood his role on the team and was willing to do anything, even sacrificing his plays on the field, to help the Bucs win games.
Alstott, 34, was selected in the second round (35th overall selection) by the Bucs in 1996, the first draft for newly named head coach Tony Dungy, and started all 16 games in his rookie season. He set the rookie record for receptions with 65 and finished the season with 557 yards and three touchdowns. Alstott also had 96 carries for 377 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first Bucs player to ever compile three rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns in the same season.
Even though Alstott fell short of winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year, he had plenty of accomplishments in his rookie season. He was named an alternate selection in the Pro Bowl behind Arizona fullback Larry Centers and was named to the Associated Press and Football Digest All-Pro second team. Alstott did capture the NFC's Offensive Rookie of the Month in November.
It was just the beginning of a career that would span over two coaching regimes and many more accomplishments.
Following a phenomenal rookie campaign, Alstott was voted to the first of six consecutive Pro Bowls gaining 665 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. He was more of a weapon running the ball in his second season, but still had 23 receptions for 178 yards and three touchdowns. Alstott was a big reason that the Bucs reached the postseason for the first time since 1982.
The Bucs clinched a wildcard playoff berth with a 10-6 record and hosted a playoff game for the first time since 1979. Alstott had 68 yards rushing and one touchdown in a 20-10 victory vs. the Detroit Lions in the last game to be played in Houlihan's Stadium, better known as Tampa Stadium.
Teamed with fellow running back Warrick Dunn in 1997, Alstott and Dunn's success in the backfield spurned many nicknames. From WD40 to Thunder and Lightning, Alstott and Dunn were helping turn the Bucs into a serious contender in the NFL after several seasons of dwelling in mediocrity.
In the next two seasons, Alstott had his best years of his career statistically culminating in 1999 when the Bucs reached the NFC Championship game. In 1998, Alstott established career-highs in rushing attempts (215), rushing yards (846) and touchdowns (eight). Even though Alstott was successful with his individual accolades, the Bucs struggled through a difficult season that finished with an 8-8 record and missing the playoffs.
Alstott, who displayed the team-first kind of attitude his entire career, would have traded his individual stats for a playoff berth in 1998. However, Alstott not only had a career season in 1999, but the Bucs also won the NFC Central Division championship with an 11-5 record and hosted a playoff game for the second time in three seasons.
The A-Train fell just short of reaching the 1,000-yard plateau, blowing past the career-high statistics he set just a year earlier. Alstott finished the season with 949 yards rushing on 242 carries with seven touchdowns. He had his career-high 131 yards on 25 carries in a win vs. Denver in 1999 and also scored a career-high three touchdowns in a single game on the road vs. Cincinnati.
Alstott's season in '99 can be summed up in one highlight run that came in the Divisional Playoff game vs. Washington in Raymond James Stadium. With the Bucs trailing 13-0 and needing a score to grab some momentum, it was Alstott that the Bucs turned to get the ball into the end zone. Alstott took the handoff and started right, shoving away would-be tacklers on his to the middle of the field. As he headed back to the middle, he bounced off another tackler and rumbled his way in for a 2-yard touchdown.
The Bucs used the momentum from the spectacular touchdown run by Alstott to capture a 14-13 victory that went down in the annals of Bucs playoff history. Even though the Bucs fell short of their goal, losing 11-6 on the road vs. St. Louis in the NFC Championship game, it was a major step for a franchise that was figuring out how to win the big game.
Alstott missed three games in the 2000 season after only missing one game due to injury in his first four seasons. He suffered a third degree sprain of the MCL in his knee in a game vs. Chicago in mid-November. His stats suffered because of the absence in playing time as he only gained 465 yards rushing, but did score five touchdowns.
Alstott led the Bucs in rushing in 2001 with 680 yards and scored a career-high 10 rushing touchdowns. He added one touchdown receptions to end up with 11 total touchdowns for the season, which is the second-highest in franchise history behind running back James Wilder who score 13 in 1984.
It was, however, a bitter sweet season for Alstott and the Bucs as they were defeated in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Eagles for the second consecutive seasons. Not only did the Bucs lose a playoff game, they eventually lost their head coach, Tony Dungy, who was responsible for their new-found success. With Dungy's departure came the hiring of head coach Jon Gruden and signaled less of a role in the offense for Alstott.
Alstott played in all 16 games during the 2002 season, but only started nine games as the Bucs made the shift from a run-oriented offense to Gruden's pass-heavy West Coast style. He had 548 yards rushing and five touchdowns during the season, but had one memorable game that brought back early memories of Alstott's skill offensively. In a 17-3 victory vs. the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium, Alstott rushed for a game-high 126 yards – 121 yards coming in the second half – and two touchdowns.
There was one drive in the second half where Alstott gained all 55 yards, culminating with a 17-yard touchdown run that wrapped up the victory. It was the last game that Alstott recorded a 100-yard performance, his seventh in his career, and led the Bucs to their fifth consecutive victory of that season.
Alstott played a big role in the playoffs in 2002, scoring at least one touchdown in all three postseason games. Despite rushing for 100 yards in three games, an average of just over 33 yards per game, Alstott had four rushing touchdowns in the playoffs.
Alstott had two 2-yard run touchdown runs in a dominating 31-6 victory vs. the San Francisco 49ers. He finished the contest with a game-high 60 yards rushing on 17 carries. Alstott had a big touchdown run on the road vs. Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game that changed the momentum of the game, a 1-yard run to give the Bucs a 10-7 lead. The Bucs went on to win that game 20-10, winning their first NFC Championship in franchise history and headed to the Super Bowl for the first time as well.
He got his opportunity to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl and didn't let it slip away as Alstott barreled into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown. The Bucs and Alstott reached the pinnacle of the football profession as they captured a 48-21 victory vs. the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.
The opportunity to repeat the following season was cut short for Alstott as he played in only four games before being placed on injured reserve with a neck strain. It was the first time that Alstott had to miss a significant amount of games due to injury and his first trip on IR. Unfortunately, Alstott had to sit on the sidelines as the Bucs stumbled to a disappointing 7-9 season.
Even with a healthy Alstott returning to the lineup, the Bucs struggled even more in 2004 with a 5-11 record. Alstott gained just 230 yards rushing on 67 carries and scored two touchdowns. The following season was much different as the Bucs began the season 5-1 on their way to an 11-5 season, an NFC South division title and a playoff berth. The 2005 season had many ups and downs, but just about every Bucs fan remembers the memorable battle vs. the Redskins during the regular season.
Washington jumped out to an early lead and the Bucs were forced to play catch up for most of the game. However, late in the game, Tampa Bay drove down the field for the game-tying touchdown. Bucs quarterback Chris Simms hit Edell Shepherd with a 30-yard touchdown pass and the Tampa Bay could tie the score with the extra point. The Bucs, however, chose to go for a two-point conversion after Washington was called for an offsides penalty, moving the ball to the 1-yard line.
Everyone in Raymond James Stadium, including the Redskins, knew who was going to get the ball, but Washington couldn't stop him. Alstott, who had scored two touchdowns in the game, did what only he does best, barreling his way across the goal line to give the Bucs a 36-35 victory.
Alstott had a career-low 34 carries and 80 yards rushing in 2005 and was used mainly on short-yardage and goal line situations. He actually relished that role in '05 and 2006 and took pride in scoring touchdowns or getting crucial first downs. He scored nine touchdowns in his last two full seasons in the Bucs backfield.
The "A-Train's" career with the Bucs was full of many accomplishments along with a Super Bowl championship. However, the whistles are silent and the train has made its last stop in Tampa Bay.
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