PewterReport.com has teamed up with our friends at BucPower.com to bring you highlight videos from past Tampa Bay Buccaneer stars in a occasional feature on Fridays, call Bucs Flashback Fridays. Paul Stewart runs the most comprehensive historical Bucs site on the web, and has begun putting together highlight videos from his vast archive of games he has collected over the years.
This week in our debut we offer you former Buccaneer running back Ricky Bell.
Tampa Bay selected Bell with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft in 1977. Bell played his college football for Tampa Bay head coach John McKay at USC and McKay and the Bucs’ front office took the Los Angles native over Tony Dorsett who went on to have a Hall of Fame career for the Dallas Cowboys. Bell signed a five-year contract for a reported $1.2 million and at the time it was the richest contract ever signed by an NFL rookie.
Bell struggled behind a poor offensive line his first couple of years in the league before having his best season of his short career in 1979, helping to lead the Bucs all the way to the NFC Championship Game at Tampa Stadium where the ended up losing to the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 9-0. In his 1979 season, Bell ran for 1,263 yards and added another 142 in the divisional playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles 24-17.
After struggling the following season, McKay traded Bell to the San Diego Chargers. Bell had been suffering from an unknown illness that included weight loss, aching muscles and severe skin problems, and Bell retired prior to 1983 season. One year later Bell passed away from dermatomyositis. Bell finished his brief NFL career with 3,063 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns, while adding 97 receptions for 892 yards and three touchdowns.
In an interview published on BucPower.com, former teammate Anthony Davis asked the question many of his teammates and those that knew him also wondered.
“I think about Ricky quite a bit. He was a great player. But as a person, Ricky was a diamond. The question always bugs you. Out of all of us, why did it have to be Ricky? He was the good one, the jewel. Why him?”
Visit BucPower.com for more historical Buccaneers information from Paul Stewart who started the Bucs UK Fan Club and has been an avid fan and friend of the organization since 1982.
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 [email protected]
The Ricky Bell made for TV movie starring Mario Van Peebles was terrible. For years and years me and my friends would greet each other by saying “Riiiiicccckkkkyyy…. rrrriiiicccckkkkyyyyy bbbbeeeeellllllll” – it’s still stuck in my head.
I think that was a Lifetime movie; to add to the misery.
No, it was network TV – I don’t think Lifetime even existed yet. If I remember correctly it was CBS in 1991 or so when people still watched network TV, so it was sort of a big deal. But it was awful.
Ha… It actually had a 7.3 out of 10 rating on IMDB.
I still have my little bell that says, “Ring your Bell for Tampa” He was special that 1979 season. The early comparisons to Tony Dorsett were just a tad unfair. Ricky went to a team that hadn’t yet won a game and Tony went to a great Cowboy’s team who traded up with Seattle to draft him. Sad ending at only 29 years old.
Thank you for keeping Ricky Bell in our thoughts. He was a special player and man, a huge part of the early Buccaneer success, who died far too young.
Ricky Bell has a special place in my heart. He and I helped a young boy dying of cancer, stuck in an old folks nursing facility, to have some smiles. We got him to a Buc Game and he met, Lee Roy, Dewey, Doug, Batman, Mark, and many others before his life ended. Just a few years later Ricky was gone way to early. If the Bucs had known what Rickey really had, I bet they would have never traded him and Coach McKay would have kept him out of respect and loyalty.
Great story Horse. I am sure coach wish he had have known what was wrong with Ricky before he traded him.
Boy’s name was Simon, and my wife and I helped to take care of him and took him places with our kids around Florida. He was in a wheel chair by then , could hardly hear and see, but we helped by letting him know someone cared about him. He had no father and his mother was in prison. When he passed away he was buried in Brooksville in a cemetery for what his family called back then the colored place across the railroad tracks. I was asked to speak about Simon at his funeral. I think I was one of two white people there. I loved Simon and wished I could have even done more for him. His highlight was being allowed into the locker room after the game. Doug Williams had busted his jaw in that game and still gave Simon some time.
Great idea Mark. I was a season ticket holder in 79 and it was a great season. The opening drive of the playoff game was pure Ricky Bell, Ricky to the left, Ricky to the right and Ricky up the middle. That game was the Bucs greatest moment in the Old Sombrero.
I am sitting in the living room of my grandmother’s house as I type this. The same house I was in on that day in 1979. She has been gone a long time, but a lot of great memories of her, this house and that season. That was the year I feel in love with football.
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