COVID-19 disrupted a number of things in the NFL last season, one of those being former Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s induction in the Bucs Ring of Honor. The plan is to have Kiffin get his honor at some point in the 2021 season, although the exact date has yet to be announced.
But after Kiffin, is the Glazer family running out of worthy candidates? Certainly there are a number of current players who will end up in the ring – guys like linebacker Lavonte David, receiver Mike Evans, perhaps Chris Godwin one day along with Shaq Barrett or Ali Marpet and so on. But in there meantime – meaning the next five to 10 years – who could we see go in? Who should we see go in?
The hardest part is not knowing the exact formula that the Glazer family uses to make the selections. Like the Colonel’s secret 11-herb and spice recipe at KFC, very few people know the exact criteria for how a player is chosen to receive the honor.
With that said, I’ve come up with three players to me that are no-brainers. Let me know if you agree, disagree or have some others you feel are worthy candidates.
1. DE Simeon Rice
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Honestly I’m shocked Rice isn’t already in the team’s ring of Honor. Rice was a terrific signing for Tampa Bay in 2001 after coming off a monster 16.5-sack season two years before in Arizona. In his first year in Tampa Bay Rice recorded 11 sacks, to go along with 64 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Former Bucs DE Simeon Rice – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The following year, Rice would help Tampa Bay finally get over the hump, beat the Eagles in Philadelphia in the playoffs and reach the Super Bowl where the team beat Oakland in San Diego. Rice had 15.5 sacks, 50 tackles and even an interception.
In 2003 while the Bucs only finished 7-9, it wasn’t because Rice wasn’t doing his part as he notched 15 more quarterback takedowns, had two interceptions and a whopping six forced fumbles with 50 more tackles.
Rice’s dominance carried on for two more seasons with the Buccaneers as he had 12 and 14 sacks in each of the next two years, and added two more QB captures in an injury-riddled season in 2006, his last with Tampa Bay.
Rice, a two-time Pro Bowler in Tampa Bay, ended his Bucs career with 69.5 sacks, leaving him behind just Warren Sapp, and maybe Lee Roy Selmon. Unfortunately for Selmon sacks didn’t become an official stat until 1982.
Rice deserves not just the Bucs Ring of Honor distinction, but serious consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a career that saw him collect 122 career sacks, 471 tackles, 28 forced fumbles and five interceptions.
No. 2 RB James Wilder
When you lookup the word “workhorse” in the dictionary, a picture of Wilder should be shown. In fact if you worked an animal as hard as the Bucs worked Wilder you’d have PETA and other animal advocacy groups claiming cruelty. And it was hard sometimes to see Wilder take the physical pounding on some really bad Bucs teams.
But all Wilder did was produce, often in NFL anonymity.
Want to know how valuable Wilder was to the franchise? Just have a look at some records Wilder, who made the Pro Bowl in 1984, still holds 32 years after he last carried a football for the Buccaneers.
Most career rushing attempts by a running back: 1,575 – 1981-89 Most rushing yards by a running back in a single season: 1,544 – 1984 Most carries by a running back in a single season: 407 – 1984 Most rushing touchdowns in a season: 13 – 1984 Most TDs by a non-quarterback in a season: 13 – 1984 (Tied with WR Mike Evans) Most touchdowns in a two-year period: 23 – 1984-85 Most receptions by a running back in a single season: 85 – 1984 Most receiving yards by a running back in a single season: 675 – 1984 Most total offensive yards by a Buccaneer in a single season: 2,229 – 1984 Most career total offensive yards by a Buccaneer: 9,449 yards – 1981-89
After a 17-14 loss against the New York Giants in 1984 in which Wilder amassed 177 total yards and a touchdown, Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor called him the greatest running back he’d ever faced. Giants head coach Bill Parcells said: “I was impressed. I’d never see him before in person, and I’m not sure I care to see him again.”
I think you get my point. If Wilder isn’t selected soon, then just tear the whole thing down as there isn’t any legitimacy to it anyway.
3. LB Hardy Nickerson
From time to time, football players get the description of being super nice guys off the field, but once the pads come on, they become a totally different person. Of all the players I have covered and seen play for the Buccaneers, Nickerson best fits that persona.
Former Bucs LBs Hardy Nickerson and Derrick Brooks – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
If you ran into Nickerson in street clothes out of the building he could actually be a fairly shy person, had a bashful smile and was pretty low-key. But add a pair of shoulders pads, a helmet, some cleats and tell him it’s time for kickoff and you better get out of his way.
Nickerson joined the Bucs as a “Plan B” free agent in 1993 as Tampa Bay was in the midst of the darkest stretch in franchise history. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs in 11 years when Nickerson came to the Bucs from the Steelers and he was shocked at how different the two franchises were ran. Nickerson soon got to work. ruling the locker room with an iron fist, one that he wasn’t afraid to use on teammates who he thought were coasting. His 214 tackles in 1993 are still a Bucs single-season record.
It took a few seasons – and better draft classes – but we all know things finally brogan to change. And Nickerson doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for the turnaround the franchise had in the late 90’s. While we all point to Tony Dungy, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks as the catalysts for the change in fortunes in Tampa Bay, make no mistake, it started with Nickerson, who helped guide the way to respectability.
Over his Buccaneer career Nickerson, a five-time Pro Bowler, collected 956 tackles, 13 forced fumbles, nine sacks, and seven interceptions. While those are outstanding and impressive numbers, the winning mentality he brought from the Steelers organization might be his biggest contribution.
Here is a fun clip of Nickerson with a British group discussing a handful of his best plays as a Buccaneer.
The 1999 version of Mark Cook raises his hand.
Me in 1999: “These graphics can’t possibly get more realistic”
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, the beach and family time.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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