CANTON, Ohio - When he returned from New Orleans in early February, having been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Warren Sapp had decided. So he went to The Captain. "We call her his captain," said Sapp's mother, Annie Roberts. Back to the meeting.
"You ready to be my presenter at the Hall of Fame?" the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers great asked. Mercedes Sapp, his 15-year-old daughter, grinned. "Let's do this," she said. Friday night, they did, at least part of it. At the Hall of Fame Gold Jacket Dinner in downtown Canton, Mercedes, wearing a white dress, helped her father on with his 52 long Hall of Fame jacket. He walked from the stage with his left arm around her. Tonight, her video tribute to her dad will play at Fawcett Stadium, next to the Hall, before the two of them unveil his bronze bust. "I'm so proud of him," Mercedes said. "There's so much joy. It's like a smile that never ends." "I want the world to see my pride and joy," Sapp said. "There's nobody that knows me better than my baby." "That's his heart," said Sapp's sister, Melissa. "That's the apple of his eye. There's always one, isn't there?" Pride and Joy, she'll be a sophomore this year at Orlando's Lake Highland Preparatory School. She attacks her studies (honor roll regular) and sports, especially soccer, where she stars at goalkeeper. She's in an Olympic developmental program. Her number? We'll give you 99 guesses. "99, always and forever," Warren Sapp said. And here's a shocker: Mercedes, despite angel looks, has some swagger. "This little monster, she is a fire-breathing dragon," Sapp said. "There's a fire. She never wanted to be just Warren Sapp's daughter. My baby is a much tougher act to follow than me. I got nothing on her." "No, he doesn't," Mercedes said, sweetly. "It's a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with her," her father said. "This one here, she loves the competition. She tosses goose eggs like she gets them out the fridge and puts them in her bag to take to games." "When I heard his name announced on that (Hall of Fame announcement) show, I lost it," Mercedes said. "I was jumping, we were screaming. I was so happy. ... There's going to be some tears (today), but it will all be worth it. He's going to have to shed a couple of tears of joy. We're all so proud of him. It's a great experience and I'm enjoying every minute of it.'' "She asked me to meet Jerry Rice," Sapp said. "I normally don't introduce my daughter to men, but you're Jerry Rice, so it's got to go down." Captain's orders. firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 259-7352