TAMPA —- Whenever the Bucs play a home game, Sankar Montoute is on hand to supervise more than 50 officers from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on duty at Raymond James Stadium.
Most of them have no idea he once wore a different uniform on gameday.
Thirty years ago Wednesday, Montoute had a sack and an interception as the Bucs beat the Vikings, 30-20, at old Tampa Stadium. It was the last of three games played with replacement players during a 24-day NFL players' strike.
There is no asterisk next to their accomplishments. Their stats counting just as officially as today's do. Montoute's NFL career, like many replacement players, lasted only three games and 15 days, but he still has fond memories of his time wearing No. 56 in the old orange.
"It was a great experience," said Montoute, 56, who was born in Trinidad and played basketball at Saint Leo. "The opportunity came and I jumped on it. Good memories and good times."
Montoute had played for the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits in 1985 and briefly in the CFL, but three months after his Bucs cameo, Montoute took a job with the county sheriff's office. When the Bucs invited him to training camp in 1988, he declined, choosing a career over what he thought was still a long shot.
"I just decided it was time to move in a direction that was more stable," he said. "I had a young family to take care of, and 30 years later, it's where I'm still at."
Montoute is set to retire in three months. He's now a major, in command of about 75 officers in the sheriff department's Homeland Security Division. He will leave a legacy there professionally and personally — two of his sons, Sankar Jr. and Suraj, now work with him there.
"I'm truly proud of their accomplishments, taking that route and following in my footsteps," he said. "I worry for them all the time, their safety, but they're well trained, and I get complimented on how well they're doing."
Replacement players were treated by many with scorn as "scabs" who took jobs while a strike was ongoing, but Mike Hold said he never faced that himself.
Hold, who had played quarterback at South Carolina, had two touchdown passes off the bench, taking over for the late John Reaves in the Bucs' 31-27 win at Detroit in the first game with replacement players.
Hold, 54, said Tampa wasn't as hard on replacement players as other NFL cities. Striking players still gathered outside the fence at practices, but were "jovial" with the replacements.
"It was not hostile like some places," said Hold, now an associate athletic director at Newberry College in South Carolina.
When the Bucs went to Detroit, they had braced for much worse, with a large tractor in front of the team bus to help clear a path to the stadium, but the crowd needed no such parting that day.
"They were expecting huge revolt from the town, from the unions, but really didn't get it," he said. "I think the listed attendance was 4,919, and it was the loudest 4,919 I've ever heard in that dome."
Hold was invited back to Bucs training camp in 1988 but never played in the NFL again. He threw 118 touchdown passes over 11 seasons in the Arena Football League and spent another nine years coaching there. He said the circumstances of him playing in NFL games never took away from the thrill of being able to do it.
"We weren't considered real players, but it still a dream come true for me," said Hold, who had gone to training camp with the Broncos in 1986 but didn't make the cut. "Where most people might say it doesn't count, it's in the books. It does count. As a kid growing up, your goal was the NFL. For me, it was worth it, by far."
The NFL paycheck wasn't bad either. Paltry by today's standards, the rookie minimum was $50,000 a year in 1987, but even three game checks was about $10,000 for three weeks' work.
"My gosh, it was incredible for me at the time," Hold said. "Compared to now, it's nothing."
Montoute, still 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds but now three decades removed from his brief NFL days, said most of his friends and colleagues don't know he played for the Bucs.
"Very few," he said. "It's been so long. I don't talk about it. People still remember the Bandits time, but I don't talk about that either."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.