Full Circle On The Selmon Expressway

April 9th, 2021

Sixty-plus years of Tampa devotion is found at Bill Currie Ford, one mile north of the stadium. GM Sean Sullivan is a huge Bucs fan and is eager to help fans personally. Shop now at BillCurrieFord.com. And remember their nationwide lifetime warranty on new & used vehicles. Ira absolutely loves his 2020 Ford Escape, cherry red!


Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment because it was one heck of a start.

Buc fans know their franchise lost its first 26 games, but on this day 45 years ago, a great player and a great man set a foundation for all to follow.

On April 8, 1976, the expansion Bucs took Lee Roy Selmon with the first draft selection in team history. It was not a controversial pick because Selmon was the nation’s most dominant defensive player at Oklahoma. Ron Wolf, overseeing that first draft, couldn’t wait to announce the choice.

A dispute with John McKay would soon usher Wolf out the door as he returned to Al Davis and the Raiders before trading for Brett Favre and resurrecting the Packers in the early 1990s.

“Once you get around a player the caliber of a Lee Roy Selmon, you can appreciate what greatness really is,” says Wolf, who sports a gold jacket as a Hall of Fame executive.

The late great Lee Roy Selmon was drafted 45 years ago.

Selmon played nine seasons in Tampa, helping the 1979 Bucs to the NFC title game while earning Defensive Player of the Year honors. He made an equal impact in the community, serving as athletic director at the University of South Florida from 2001-04.

When Selmon died in 2011 at the age of 56 from complications following a stroke, accolades poured in from across the land in honor of a gentle giant.

When I moved from New York to the Bay area in 1985, McKay had just retired and Selmon had just played his final game. I saw Selmon play twice in person during the 1979 postseason, leading a stout defense against the Eagles and Rams.

But I missed out on the privilege of watching Selmon come off that right edge every week in a 3-4 alignment, drawing at least two blockers on every passing down. A terror for any offensive linemen standing in his way to the quarterback, Selmon proved a comfort for McKay during the dog days of the franchise.

“Whenever I want to feel good,” McKay said, “I think about Lee Roy Selmon.”

Jason Pierre-Paul and Selmon shared ties at the University of South Florida

He was the first Buc inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the inaugural member of the Buccaneer Ring of Honor. No Tampa Bay player will ever again wear No. 63 and Selmon was recently chosen one of the seven best defensive ends in the NFL’s first 100 years.

How good was he?

Forty-five years have passed and he’s still the standard for immortality around here. When it comes to playing in 3-man fronts, Joe Greene and Bill Belichick both consider Selmon the premier defensive end in league history.

And while Selmon has in-house competition from Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, whose busts keep him company in Canton, there’s only one Lee Roy Selmon. We’ve got an expressway named after him and as his college coach, Barry Switzer, once remarked: “He’s a better person than a football player.”

Sapp was in awe of Selmon when they first met during Sapp’s rookie season in 1995.

“He set a standard way before me, Brooks, Lynch and Ronde — really all of us there — that this place was going to be known for defense,” said Sapp. “It’s one thing to be a first-round draft pick. I can’t imagine the pressure of being THE guy. How about that?

“They bring you as a savior of a franchise that had never played a game, and then they give you the ugliest uniform going and ask you to go do it in that. You could put a Lee Roy Selmon jersey on and nobody was going to say nothing to you. You can still wear 63 anywhere, any time and you’re golden.”

The Bucs sure got it right that spring day in 1976, when gas prices averaged 59 cents a gallon and “All the President’s Men” had just hit the movie theaters. In his first remarks as a Buccaneer, Selmon talked about the draft process.

“I’m glad it’s over,” he said. “I see a lot of hard work ahead, but that’s what life is all about — a lot of work.”

Instead, Selmon made it look like child’s play. He would have been very proud of the 2020 Bucs, who closed out a championship season by playing stellar defense against Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes.

He would have applauded pass rushers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. He would have cheered run-stuffers Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea. In retrospect, Selmon’s skill set incorporated their best qualities.

He lives on, as a player and as a man. Let’s never forget that Lee Roy Selmon is the original Buccaneer, their one and only. The 1976 Bucs opened the first round of the draft.

Soon, the Bucs will close out the opening round. They’ve come full circle on the Selmon Expressway.

Ira!  … Ira’s good friend Sean Sullivan, the Bill Currie Ford general manager, is ready to help you personally. Just call, email or stop in, one mile north of Raymond James Stadium.

28 Responses to “Full Circle On The Selmon Expressway”

  1. Swampbuc Says:

    Ira, that was beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Thanks for taking us back, Ira. Some of us were very lucky to watch him play….

  3. Bruce Blahak Says:

    Beautiful! THE Buccaneer man!

  4. DoooshLaRue Says:

    That really was great Ira.
    It got me a little misty.

    Selmon is the Original Buccaneer and as a kid I got to watch him play at The Sombrero for most of his career.
    Also got to get his autograph at the Shriner’s dinner.

    Such a great guy and player.

  5. Scotty in Fat Antonio Says:

    Awesome Story Ira!

  6. ben Says:

    Mr. Selmon gave everything to his team and our community. Thanks for keeping his name alive !!

  7. frankbucsfan Says:

    I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Selmon on 2 occasions. Once at my place of employment, MacDonald Training Center, and once on Ashley St. as he exited the bank. Both times he stopped and spoke, shook my hand and showed again why he has the so well deserved reputation that he has.

  8. BucDan Says:

    Another great read.

  9. WillieG Says:

    Didn’t he have 5 sacks in a Pro Bowl?

    I remember always being disappointed that the Bucs played a 3-4 D and rarely blitzed. I wanted a 4-3 so Selmon could get 30 sacks a year.

  10. Pelsbuc61 Says:

    Greatest Buc ever and even a better person. I felt a profound sadness when he died and somehow USF beat Notre Dame the next day. RIP Mr Selmon.

  11. #1bucsfan Says:

    Never got to see him play but the stories you hear about how great he was on the field and even greater off the field man we need more Lee Roy’s. Rip big guy. What a legend and so glad he was a buc

  12. bojim Says:

    I watched the pro bowl in 82. I believe there was no double teaming allowed. Selmon got 4 sacks and he didn’t even play the whole game.

  13. '79Defense Says:

    Great one , Ira. Thanks. Very find memories of watching him play at the Sombrero as a kid. Also met him and got his autograph, which I still have. What a thrill that was to be standing next to Lee Roy Selmon!

    — I also met Ricky Bell once and got his autograph. Another huge thrill for an 11 year old kid. Both were very nice to me. Hard to believe how much time has passed.

  14. Jim Says:

    What a treasure he was. Hit me hard when he passed away.

  15. DoooshLaRue Says:


    Yeah, I met Ricky Bell too and quite a few others. We were very lucky to go to those dinners.
    We sat with George Yarno one year and Garo Yepremian another year.
    John McKay spilled his gin and tonic on my little brother….. he loves telling that story!

  16. Steven Says:

    Well done Ira.

  17. PSL Bob Says:

    Nicely done Ira! Leroy Selmon was an icon on and off the field.

  18. Pittbucfan Says:

    Great read, Sage!

  19. BucUToo Says:

    I could hear the admiration in your words, Ira. Well written. The best thing about him was that he was just a genuinely good person. When I was a kid I had the pleasure of living down the street from his family, and he would let the neighborhood kids in, and give us water or something to eat. He was just a nice person. You don’t see many like him anymore.

  20. Go Bucs Says:

    Ira that was an outstanding article. 👏 to you! Well done!

  21. DRFEELGOOD Says:

    I ran into Mr. Selmon and Ricky Bell at Popeye’s chicken when I was around 14 years old (five years into the Bucs start) and approached them and asked to shake their hands. Not only did he oblige, but he asked me and my Dad to join them!! Imagine that!! Asking total strangers to join him for lunch. Who does that? MR. Lee Roy Selmon!! And most of our conversation was him asking about ME and what I wanted to do with my life. The day we lost him was one of the saddest days of my life and I still cannot believe he is gone. The late Mr. Bell was also very cool about it all. Only the good die young! Thank you Ira for this article. I’m crying happy tears as I write this.

  22. Matt in York Says:

    Well written Ira, great read.

  23. '79 Defense Says:


    Sounds like a funny story with McKay and the G and T!

    I met Ricky in a department store in a mall in Orlando where he and Jimmie Giles were making an appearance. My big brother took me there as a surprise. The place was dead and I couldn’t believe it when we walked up to a table and those two were just sitting there with nobody around.

  24. Mike28277 Says:

    Thank you Ira. Switzer got it right.

  25. No Risk It No Biscuit Says:

    Thank you Ira.

  26. zorro Says:

    Great memories Ira. He and Rickey Bell came to one of our Little League Football practices while I was coaching in 1979. I still have the pictures.

  27. Robbie Says:

    Incredibly written, Mr. Kaufman. Thank you.

  28. Brandon Says:

    Good info… well written… but the best part of the story is in the comments. Thanks for sharing, fellas.