In the 1980 movie “The Blues Brothers,” which was set in Chicago, Dan Akroyd and John Belushi traveled the country attempting to put their band back together.
New Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith may be following suit, as former Tampa Bay Pro Bowl middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson has agreed to become the Bucs linebackers for Smith.
Nickerson is credited with setting the tone for the Bucs turnaround back in the 1990’s. Signed as a free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1993, the California-born Nickerson, known for his nasty streak, came to the lowly Buccaneers and was an immediate example setter. Nickerson’s attitude and work ethic were something that hasn’t been seen in several years inside the Buccaneers locker room, and at times, Nickerson led not only by example, but also with physical force. Altercations with players that Nickerson felt were giving 100 percent effort are well known in Tampa Bay lore.
Nickerson made the Pro Bowl five times in seven seasons in Tampa Bay, manning the middle and thriving in the Tampa 2 defense under Tony Dungy – and Smith – joined the staff in 1996. In addition to the Pro Bowl honors earned, Nickerson was named All-Pro four times and was also named to the 1990’s All-Decade Team. Nickerson’s 214 tackles during the 1993 season, set a single-season record in Tampa Bay that stands today.
After Nickerson’s Bucs career ended, the former Cal Bear went on to play three more seasons in the league, two in Jacksonville and one in Green Bay. Nickerson finished his NFL career with 1,586 tackles, 21 sacks and 12 interceptions.
After he retired, Nickerson was the color analyst alongside Gene Deckerhoff for the Buccaneers Radio Network in 2006 before leaving to serve as the linebackers coach for Smith with the Chicago Bears in 2007.
Nickerson stepped down after the 2007 season due to a family health issue, but went back into coaching as the head coach for Bishop O’Dowd High School where he coached his son, linebacker Hardy Nickerson, Jr., in Oakland from 2010 until stepping down this past November.
During Smith’s introductory press conference at One Buc Place on Monday, Smith hinted there could be some familiar faces brought back to the organization, and obviously now he was speaking of Nickerson. “As I’m putting our coaching staff together right now, hopefully there are – it would be great to get an old Buccaneer back on our staff, “ Smith said.
Smith wants his new Bucs players to understand and embrace the tradition of the team’s glory days.
“One thing I am going to do, I’m reaching out, I’m going to reach out to all our former greats, our former Buccaneers will always be welcomed here,” Smith said on Monday. “We want them around. We want our current players to feel that pressure of how they’re supposed to perform each week. Some places don’t have the tradition that we have, but we’re going to definitely draw on that as much as we can.”
Nickerson is the first former Bucs player hired under Smith, but there could be more. On Monday Smith was asked about the possibility of Derrick Brooks joining the organization in some capacity.
“My job title duties don’t take me that far, but Derrick Brooks in any organization is a good thing, I will say that,” Smith said. “I think most of you know how I feel about Derrick, just one of the classiest, best guys out there, you want him of course. It’s great that he represents the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As I go through this beautiful building, for some of you out here that I know, hasn’t One Buc changed quite a bit from the last time I was here? It’s great to see so many pictures of Derrick up around here.”
– Scott Reynolds contributed to this report
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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