Initially, I set out to catalog the five hardest hitters in the history of the franchise — something I still might pursue later in the season. But thanks to John Lynch, the prompt lacked surprise; he was the only eligible candidate for the list’s premier entry, setting standards that no other Buccaneer has come close to matching. So I decided to amend the topic and detail the five hardest hits in Buccaneer history — a list Lynch would certainly make (several times), but wouldn’t necessarily lead.
But I ran headfirst into another problem. A written list, even one choked with strong adjectives and thick description, could never capture the violence and intensity of a stadium-shaking, high-speed NFL collision.
I dug through several years’ worth of videos, but was disappointed with the selection. I wanted Ervin Randle vs. Neal Anderson in 1987; I got Mason Foster blasting Chad Ochocinco in the preseason. I wanted Carl Howard sending shockwaves into O.J. Anderson in 1985; they gave me Elbert Mack cheap-shotting Matt Ryan in 2008. I would’ve settled for Dwight Smith thumping Amani Toomer in the end zone, but I found Devin Holland decapitating Danny Woodhead earlier this year. All solid hits, but hardly historic.
After several days of scrounging, I found a few pieces of footage worthy of this list. And for the sake of intrigue, let’s get Lynch out of the way early.
5. John Lynch knocks out his brother-in-law; everyone else.
Lynch struggled to hold down a position early in his career, but found his niche in the realm between pass defense and linebacking. He roamed the secondary, inflicting Armageddon on any receiver with the fortitude to cross him. There were rarely repeat victims; receivers went out of their way to avoid Lynch’s warpath, and — picking up where Jack Tatum left off — John developed quickly into one of the NFL’s most intimidating and decorated defenders.
4. Lee Roy Selmon body slams Ron Jaworski.
In the late 70s, left tackle Stan Walters was the best player on a weak Philadelphia offensive line. In 1977 — Ron Jaworski‘s first year as a starter — the Eagles surrendered a league-high 47 sacks, thanks in part to an awful effort against Lee Roy Selmon in the opening week. Lee Roy was an animal — nearly unblockable one-on-one — and Walters learned that late in the second quarter; Selmon exploded out of his stance, thundered a right hand into Walters’ chest, and powered through him en route to the quarterback. Jaworski didn’t offer much resistance. Lee Roy wrapped him up, lifted him off the ground, and slammed him ribs-first into the grass. Jaworski struggled to stand after the sack, and was replaced by backup Roman Gabriel for the remainder of the drive.
3. Tanard Jackson buries Dallas Clark in AstroTurf.
It was his signature hit — the collision that left Dallas Clark a writhing mess on the floor of the RCA Dome. It came in his fifth career game, and helped establish Tanard Jackson as a Pro Bowl caliber free safety and the steal of the 2007 draft. Tampa lost the game that day, but Jackson — intercepting a Peyton Manning pass on the following play — earned a reputation as a big-hitting, ball-hawking, splash play machine. When not being suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, he’s made a habit out of smashing pass receivers mid-route and delivering some of the most devastating tackles in Tampa Bay history. Ask Dallas Clark. He knows.
2. Todd Washington shakes the Earth.
Todd Washington — a fourth-round pick and career backup in Tampa — never made much of an impression on the Buccaneer organization or its fans. Fearon Wright wasn’t so fortunate. Wright, a noted big-hitter out of Rhode Island, went head-to-head with the 310-pound Washington. Both players collided at full speed. The sound shook the stadium. Wright’s body went rigid on impact and the Minnesota linebacker crumpled to the field; the hit left him concussed and contributed to an injury-plagued end to his brief career. As for Washington, it was easily his most productive moment as a Buccaneer and left fans dreaming about a Mike Alstott / Todd Washington goal line package.
1. Scot Brantley ends Eric Hipple.
Detroit quarterback Eric Hipple faked the hand off to his right, before rolling left and looking for running room on a 1st and 18. He gained a quick five yards on the bootleg and made to retreat out of bounds, never seeing Scot Brantley — the creamsicle homing missile — beelining toward him. Brantley launched a shoulder into the unsuspecting quarterback, and sent the ball, the helmet, and what was left of the 28-year-old passer in three different directions. Hipple left the game after a few minutes of pained squirming near the sideline, and unbelievably returned to action on the following series.