Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Buccaneers to retire Sapp's No. 99
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially induct Warren Sapp into their Ring of Honor on Nov. 11, the iconic defensive tackle’s name won’t be the only thing that goes up on the facing of the upper deck at Raymond James Stadium.
In addition to naming Sapp as the fifth member of their Ring of Honor on Thursday, the team also announced the No. 99 uniform number Sapp wore during his nine-year Bucs career will be retired, as well.
“That’s crazy,’’ a beaming Sapp said shortly after the announcement during a ceremony at One Buc Place. “I mean, there’s only one other number up there, right?’’
Right, he is.
The only number retired so far by the Bucs is Hall of Fame defensive lineman Lee Roy Selmon’s No. 63. That Sapp’s number become the second just seemed logical, Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said.
“There really was no other choice,’’ Glazer said of naming Sapp this year’s Ring of Honor inductee and retiring his number. “Warren Sapp truly is one of our franchise’s most iconic players.’’
Sapp was the first player drafted by the Bucs after Glazer’s father, Malcolm, bought the team in 1995.
And, in August, Sapp will become only the second Bucs player, joining Selmon, to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I’m just a boy from (Plymouth) Florida, and I’m standing before you today feeling very humbled and very, very honored,’’ Sapp said as he fought back tears during the ceremony. “But damn it feels good.
“The only thing I ever played for was the respect of my teammates, my peers and the people that coached with me and against me. And as I look back on it now, I think I made it.’’
Several of Sapp’s former teammates, including center Tony Mayberry, running back Mike Alstott and defensive tackle Brad Culpepper, attended the ceremony, along with Tony Dungy, his coach for eight of nine years in Tampa.
“The thing that made Warren so great was not just his talent, but his personality,’’ Dungy said. “He had that unique quickness, size and speed, but he also had a swagger about him.
“Warren didn’t want to be second in anything, and that swagger that he brought, that was something that our team needed then and he brought that – that ‘We are going to win’ attitude.’’
Sapp brought more than a winning attitude to the Bucs. He brought wins, something the Bucs produced few of in the years prior to his arrival as the 12th overall selection in the 1995 draft.
In fact, the Bucs had suffered through 12 straight double-digit losing seasons when Sapp arrived. They had only one such season during Sapp’s run, which included five playoff appearances and a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.
“Very few players have the passion that he had and that’s what really separates the great ones,’’ said Bucs general manager Mark Dominik, who came to Tampa Bay as pro personnel director the same year as Sapp.
“Those guys practice hard and they love it, and Warren did both to the nines. So, when it came to game day, that was the easy part and that was the fun part for him. That’s when he exploded.”
A seven-time Pro Bowl and six time All Pro selection, Sapp re-defined the defensive tackle position, using his unique speed and athleticism to record 96.5 sacks, the second all-time among interior lineman behind Hall of Famer John Randall’s 137.5.
He recorded 77 of those sacks for the Bucs, including a single-season team record 16.5 in 2000. In 1999, he had 12.5 sacks and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“Unless they were going to double-team him, there was no way he was going to be stopped,’’ said former Bucs tight end and Sapp teammate Dave Moore, who acknowledged Sapp’s boisterous personality didn’t mesh with everyone.
“He was the type of guy you either loved or hated. He was consistently loud. But, without question, everyone respected him, because nobody worked harder than Warren Sapp.’’
Sapp doesn’t disagree with Moore’s assessment. He alluded several times during Thursday’s ceremony to his boisterous personality, at one point calling himself “that mouth that roared.’’
“As I stand before you all today, I just want to say thank you to everybody that had anything to do with (my success) and to everyone that put up with my wildness and that big old mouth of mine,’’ Sapp said.
“But the city of Tampa loved it and if you were picking a football team and you were picking a defensive tackle, well I wanted you to pick me. And the only way to get that was to put it on film.
“So, no matter how loud or boisterous I was or what I said in the locker room (to the media), I still had to go out there on Sundays and put it on film. I think I did that.’’