After 12 seasons of being apart of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fullback Mike Alstott retired prior to the 2008 season. At halftime of this Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, Alstott will be honored for his contributions to the Bucs.
There has been speculation that Alstott's no. 40 jersey will be retired. The only Buccaneer player to have his number retired by the franchise was defensive end Lee Roy Selmon (no. 63). Selmon is also the only Buc player to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Whether Alstott's jersey is retired or not, Alstott expects Sunday to be a special night.
"I'm emotional, and when the moment happens it's going to be emotional," Alstott said of the halftime ceremony that will be held on Sunday night. "That's the way I always was, always am and always will be. The fans embraced me and this organization embraced me. It will be very emotional."
Alstott, who turns 35 in December, was injured prior to the 2007 season, and spent the year on injured reserve. With his football career over, Alstott indicated it was a transition to watching the games and not playing in them.
"It's hard to watch it, but I think it really helped me last year being on the team to make the transition to '08," said Alstott. "I was still able to be around the team and be involved. I think that helped me a lot in terms of making the transition to this year. I obviously knew I'd never be able to play again because of my situation."
Alstott is the franchise's all-time leader in touchdowns with 71. He is also second in franchise history with 5,088 rushing yards. He averaged 3.7 yards per carry, with 58 touchdowns coming on the ground.
In retirement, Alstott has spent time working on different business ventures, The Mike Alstott Foundation, coaching youth baseball and football teams, and spending time with his wife and kids. After playing football for a long time, Alstott has moved on.
"I am enjoying it," Alstott said of retirement. "I can spend more time with my wife, family and kids and be part of some of the other events in my life. I'm doing a lot of the things that I was doing when I was playing football, but now I can concentrate on them more. But at the same time I wish I was still playing.
"I've accepted it and understand it. I can walk. Even though football was 28 years of my life I'm actually getting to experience other things. Life goes on. I am enjoying retirement. I'm looking forward to doing some different things. As my kids grow older and I get more involved in their life, we'll take more trips and things like that. I look forward to it. I was blessed for 12 years. How many football players that come and go can say they played 12 years for an organization and have been supported by so many people in one career? I look at it as a blessing."
Alstott admitted that he still keeps up with the Buccaneers and watches their games when he can, although the same can't be said for the rest of the NFL.
"If it's not a Buccaneers game I really don't watch," said Alstott.
The Purdue product was selected by the Buccaneers in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Alstott recorded career highs in touchdowns in the 2001 season when he totaled 11 scores. The 1999 season was the highest rushing total that Alstott posted with 949 yards to go with 239 receiving yards. He notched nine touchdowns on that season. His career high in receiving yards came during the 2002 season when he caught 35 passes for 242 yards.
Alstott was a leader on the Buccaneers 2002 Super Bowl championship team. Alstott scored the first touchdown of Super Bowl XXXVII, and is the franchise's all-time leader in playoff touchdowns with seven.
One Buccaneer Place replaced Bucs flags out in front of the team facility with No. 40 red flags in honor of Alstott. Although he's preparing for the Seattle Seahawks, Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden said he's looking forward to the celebration of Alstott's career on Sunday night.
"I think it will be a great atmosphere to celebrate what was a great football player," said Gruden. "Certainly a team leader and an icon in our organization. We are going to do everything we can to obviously welcome him back and celebrate his tremendous career. He is a world champion. He is a great guy, and Tampa, Florida has a lot to be proud of with him.
"For me he was one of my favorite players I've ever coached. You needed a short-yardage run, you needed a block, you needed a guy to be a personal protector on a punter he was always there for us, and what he overcame, that serious neck injury, to play and compete sums him up the best. I don't know how he compares with all the others, not many teams use a fullback anymore."
Other Buccaneer players commented on playing with and against Alstott over his 11 seasons of field action.
Quarterback Jeff Garcia "Well Mike is the face of the franchise," said Garcia. "There are only a couple guys that have played here in Tampa Bay that have carried out a career like he had here, and for this to be his night is a great recognition for himself, what he meant to this team, what he meant to this community, and what he meant to the organization. We miss him dearly as a teammate. It is great to see him come around when he does come around. The career that he had was a great one for this team. The success that he was able to experience on the field is something forced onto this team by his own work ethic, and by the way he approached the game, and by the way he played the game. It is the least that this organization can do is have a night for him, and recognize what he meant to this team."
Wide receiver Ike Hilliard "I love Mike. I wish he were still playing. I hate that he is not in uniform. He is one of my favorite guys all-time, even when I faced him on another team from another sideline. He had that influence. He made a number of plays that you don't see from guys who play his position. I think it is good to have a tribute to him." Offensive guard Sean Mahan "I think it is great. Mike deserves to be honored. He was a great player, and it was a tremendous honor blocking for him and playing with him. He is a great guy on and off the field. He is a great leader. I'm looking forward to it. It is exciting and he deserves it."
Tight end Alex Smith "He was a great teammate. He was kind of quiet, but just the nicest guy in the world. Every time we see him around we're really happy to see him. It's a real credit to what type of guy is and how he worked on the football field. I'm happy for him for this day."
Fullback Jameel Cook "Mike Alstott. That's my man. I can't say one word to describe him. He taught me a lot. He taught me how to prepare, how to play and taught me how to be a Buccaneer. I can't say enough about him."
Running back Warrick Dunn "He's a guy who has had a great career. He's appreciated and the fans love him. I think it's going to be fitting because he's one of the guys that helped turn this thing around. He's going to be missed and remembered."
"It was an honor because I got to see him earlier in this career when he was still running with reckless abandon and banging heads. He so many great runs. To me, he was one of those guys that when you needed two or three yards in crunch time he was the right number to call.
"He's going to go down as one of the greatest runners/fullbacks/tailbacks to ever play in this league. I'm happy for him."