Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp will officially become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night when the enshrinement ceremony kicks off at 7 p.m. The candid and outspoken Sapp may get choked up and stop during his speech to gather his emotions when his name is called, but he was his usual self as he recalled his past.
He laughed, joked, and told stories the way Warren Sapp could only do. He reflected on his former teammates and on how he has been received by other Hall of Fame members. But when it came down to describing how he felt about it all, he detailed it all in classic Warren Sapp fashion.
“I'm a fan of the game more than anything,” Sapp said as he chuckled. “I'm a kid in a candy store right now man. I'm looking for Bob Lilly and all the tackles. I'm looking for all of them. I'm looking for all the great ones. I'm going to take my pictures. I'm going to (photograph) myself to death and go home and make me a scrapbook and just flip for years to come. This is my team now. I've always been that way with my teammates.”
And that feeling of a kid in a candy store showed when Sapp talked about the players he watched growing up and saying them now in Canton.
“This is one of those deals where you see everything,” Sapp said. “I mean, I got to meet Roger Staubach today. For a Cowboy fan like me that's “Roger The Dodger”. I mean come on I got Troy Aikman beside me. I got a whole collection of the greatest quarterbacks ever! Joe Namath I'm grabbing on! I mean it's everything that I want.”
As a kid living in the small town of Plymouth, Florida, Sapp did not have many material things to grow up with. However, his passion for watching football on Sundays kept him motivated.
“It's one of those crazy things where your whole life flashes in front of you,” Sapp recalled. “Sitting in front of the television watching Phyllis George and Jimmy The Greek do the Sunday games, Eric Dickerson running down the sidelines, Jackie Slater block, there's nothing better for a kid like me because I didn't have cable. I didn't have the Discovery Channel. I lived to wake up on Sunday morning and come out of Sunday school with church and race home because at 1 o'clock there was a game.”
Those 1 o'clock games that Sapp remembered would soon feature himself in them. But how he got there was by staying humbled as a kid growing up and with a little help from his mother keeping him grounded.
“You wake up in the morning and the only thing you hear is your mother yelling 'Get up. Go to school.' and the door slammed, that was on you,” Sapp said laughing. “Nobody's scared, nobody wants to hear excuses. So when you wake up in the morning, you're walking to a bus stop, getting on the bus, on a dirt road. There's no stop lights. There's no amenities around. Just a dirt road.”
Sapp went from being drafted 12th overall in 1995 by Tampa Bay to making his mark as a Buccaneer. His 130 starts from 1995-2003 ranks 7th all-time for the Bucs and his 77 sacks ranks him 2nd in team history, just behind the late, great, and first Buccaneer Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon (78.5 sacks). And with his own personal accomplishments, Sapp acknowledges who the greatest Buccaneer is.
“The greatest Buc ever was our first pick Lee Roy Selmon and he sits there (in Canton),” Sapp said. “The reverence that I have for him and what he did for my organization because before him and Doug (Williams) there was nothing in Tampa.”
The 40-year old Sapp enters the Hall of Fame as a player many remember disrupting plays in the backfield, dancing after a sack or fumble recovery, and celebrating with his teammates on the field in San Diego after being Super Bowl Champions. As for his teammates, Sapp let it be known that he didn't get to the hall alone to represent himself. He represents those he played alongside of in Tampa Bay.
“The way I always say it is when we were doing our (Super Bowl) run we were talking about nicknames. We all started the nickname thing and I said 'Don't do me. Let's not nickname ourselves.' When you think of the purple people eaters you think of Minnesota. When you think of the steel curtain you have to go to Pittsburgh. Doomsday you gotta go to Dallas. They play Tampa 2 everywhere. They play it in Europe. They play it in Belize. That's what I represent. I represent a collection of individuals that believed in a system. I represent all my boys.”