It's 1976 and Lee Roy Selmon is the first draft pick in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He and his teammates will endure some miserable times in their first few seasons -- losing 26 games in a row, struggling to be competitive, and turning into Johnny Carson's personal punching bag. But Selmon is a standout player and a beacon of hope for Bucs fans in the expansion-year darkness. "It's OK," we all think. "We have Lee Roy Selmon."
It's 1991 and Lee Roy Selmon is on a homecoming parade float with former USF president Dr. Frank Borkowski. Selmon casually mentions to Borkowski that if the school ever seriously looks at starting up a football program, he would be interested in helping out. The call comes two years later, and along with him, everyone at USF begins the daunting task of convincing the Florida Board of Regents and the community at large that they can build a successful program out of thin air. But no one is overwhelmed. "It's OK," they all think. "We have Lee Roy Selmon."
It's 1995 and Lee Roy Selmon is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His former team has lost at least 10 games in each of the last 12 seasons. A new group of owners have just purchased the team, and no one is sure whether they will remain in Tampa. Bucs fans are hopeful and anxious and also scared that they may not have anything to root for in a year or two. But then Selmon is voted in as a member of the Hall, the only Buccaneer to be honored to this date. "It's OK," we all think. "We have Lee Roy Selmon."
It's 2003 and Lee Roy Selmon is on a flight from Newark returning to Tampa. He's the athletic director at USF, and he and president Judy Genshaft, along with a few other people, have just pitched themselves to the Big East Conference. Genshaft turns to Selmon sitting next to him and says, "Well, what did you think?" Selmon tells her that he thinks they did well. And Genshaft is excited because she knows that he would never steer anyone wrong. "It's OK," she thinks. "We have Lee Roy Selmon."
It's 2011 and Lee Roy Selmon has left us too soon. But we have his spectacular legacy to remember -- as a football player, a businessman, a public servant and civic booster, and most importantly, as the best human being anyone who ever met him has ever known. (If you had a problem with Lee Roy Selmon, it was you who had the problem.) It's hard to figure out how our sports community will go on without our gentle giant. For now, though, we should mourn his passing and celebrate his tremendous example as a person and his achievements for sports in Tampa Bay.
It's OK, we should all think. We had Lee Roy Selmon.