There was a time in Bucs history when previous players were just an afterthought. But after Malcolm Glazer purchased the team in 1995, that all changed. Glazer and the organization wanted to bring the past to the present, a tradition that continues today.
On Tuesday the Buccaneers hosted 50 alumni players who now are referred to as “Legends.”
Barry Smith, a former star receiver at Florida State and 1972 first-round draft pick of the Packers, played just one season for the Buccaneers (1976) but still feels a connection to the team. At the start of Tuesday’s practice, Smith recalled how Smith informed the alumni group of their new name.
“When the Glazers got here they formed a Buccaneer alumni group, so that was kind of neat to make you feel part of the group because we are all fans,” Smith said. “So we had this Buccaneer alumni day at a practice this spring and Lovie is talking to us with the team and said, ‘By the way guys we’re getting rid of the Buccaneer alumni group.’ And we are all going, ‘What the hell?’ An then he smiled and says, ‘There’s no more Buccaneer alumni, from now on you are all legends.’ It was so cool, us guys said, ‘Well, we were always legends in our own mind!’ We loved that.” Former two-stint punter Mark Royals (1990-91, 1999-2001) talked about the name change.
“Jill Hobbs (longtime Bucs office employee) told me that they were doing it and I’m OK with that,” Royals said. “The fact that he thinks there’s an importance of current players embracing the past – to get to where you are going you have to know where you came from –I think it’s a good thing. I think it makes all the alumni feel like they are still part of things. We are kind of intertwined so we are all enjoying it.”
Former tackle Rob Taylor (1986-93) said even though the name change is simple, it does make the former players feel good.
“The terminology, calling us legends is kind of humbling,” Taylor said. “What it does make you feel like it is, is that you’re still a part of it, part of the history. Every time I get an invitation I love to come. You get to see a lot of your old teammates, so it is kind of like a homecoming to see your former teammates and catch up. I appreciate the fact that Lovie Smith and the organization still looks at us as part of their history.
“This facility is unbelievable. I just walked part the weight room and remembered our weight room (at the original One Buc) was out on the patio. The cafeteria, we just kind of used to eat in the meeting rooms or wherever. Of course the Glazer ownership had a vision of improving things and I am real happy for them. But it is a definite change. We were grateful then because we didn’t know what this was like.”
Taylor went on to talk about this year’s team and some of the challenges the team faces, particularly on offense.
“I would say really the whole offensive unit because all 11 players have to be on the same page, even the running backs,” Taylor said. “ It takes a long time. Especially when you are putting in a new offense.
“Obviously they have the talent and the coaching staff, but the key is (whether) they will be able get the offense running on all cylinders quickly. And the offensive line is a key, five guys working together and communicating. All five guys have to work together. So it didn’t surprise me at all they struggled in the first preseason game.
“I certainly think they are heading in the right direction, there is no question about that. The question is always is all about the offensive line.”
Royals also talked about the direction of the franchise but feels it has the right head coach in place.
“I have always felt like having the respect of your players, was, if not the most important, but as important as the Xs and Os,” he said. “Because if you respect the coach you play for you will do everything you can to win. Not that you want otherwise, but when you have that respect level it is just different. So with a new coach coming in, changing the culture, that is the challenge.
Horace Copeland is another former player (1993-98) that is excited about where he sees the Buccaneers heading.
“They are in a great cycle right now in the preseason with one game under their belt,” Copeland said. “This is where you make corrections, this is the best time to make corrections. Right now the defense is intact and still working to get better and they are trying to get the offense going. I really think the offense is going to be better this upcoming preseason game. This is an opportunity work out on the wrinkles.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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