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.