The saddest day in Tampa history has just been thrust in front of our eyes. Our lone ranger in the Hall of Fame, Tampa’s greatest citizen and a father figure to all has passed. Lee Roy Selmon, the first ever draft pick of the team we love so much, is no longer with us. Selmon passed away last Sunday after a stroke at the tender age of 56. Selmon was more active in the Tampa community than anyone. Possibly the sole reason USF has a football team.
Earlier this year I was walking into Tropicana Field with my grandfather and a few friends and noticed the bricks outside of the stadium purchased by Rays fans and benefactors. There was one purchased by Selmon. It made me realize something, Selmon was a normal fan, and a normal guy… just like any of us. That’s what made him so special. Most celebrities aren’t like that, but he was. Selmon stayed true to his roots his entire life.
I think his upbringing had a lot to do with it. Being the youngest of nine siblings is never easy, especially growing up in rural Oklahoma in a small house with no plumbing, refrigerator or air conditioning. He shared a bed with his brother, in fact.
I was listening to WDAE the Tuesday after Selmon’s death. They invited fans to call in and share their memories of Lee Roy. One man called in and said — that as a child — he had been invited to a Buccaneer Bible study session. That night, when Lee Roy arrived, the boy excitedly announced that he was playing football, and was doing his best to emulate the Buccaneers’ star defensive end. The boy’s brother (or father, I forget) didn’t think he’d make it long in football, because he cried too much. Lee Roy — the six-foot-three, 260lb giant — smiled warmly at the boy and said, “It’s okay. I cry a lot too.”
If that doesn’t warm your soul, nothing will.
The loss of Lee Roy devastates me; it’s like someone just told me my grandfather died. If I can take away anything from this it’s to be more like Lee Roy. Treat people the way he treated people, make a positive difference like he did. Live my life like Lee Roy did. This week it hasn’t left my mind, I feel like I did when my father died.
I still stand firm that Selmon was the second greatest Buccaneer ever, behind only Derrick Brooks, and whichever order they’re put in, it’s fitting; the two greatest Bucs on the field are two of the greatest off the field, too. I can only hope that current and future players can follow in their steps. It’s not all about winning. Hell, Selmon’s career started off 0-26, but he never griped. He never quit. He never stopped being great.
We can only hope that the loss of Mr. Selmon will help bring a fire to the team. It may hurt the young squad more than help, but winning isn’t everything, and times like these put that into perspective. Let’s not forget what he did for this city, this team, and most of all for us. How he’s changed our lives with his words, his actions, his existence.
We will miss you Lee Roy.