The best player in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history.
Born October 20, 1954, in Eufala, Oklahoma, Lee Roy Selmon was a standout defensive lineman on the Eufala High School football team. He then went on to the University of Oklahoma, where he again stood out, in his senior year winning the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman, the Lombardi Trophy as the best lineman overall, and the Big Eight Athlete of the Year award. Barry Switzer said he was the best player he ever coached. (Considering Lee Roy was on the team with two brothers, Lucious and Dewey, and also had five other siblings, he had to play exceptionally well to stand out.)
In 1976, Selmon continued his football career in the NFL, making history as the expansion Buccaneers’ first college draft pick. The Bucs’ first couple of seasons were woeful, with Selmon providing almost the only highlights, racking up 5 sacks in 8 games in 1976, and then a career high 13 sacks in the 1977 season. (Unofficially, that is, since the sack statistic didn’t become official until 1982.) The fortunes of the team turned around quickly, though, as things started to click and Selmon led the 1979 “worst to first” squad to the NFC championship game, with 11 sacks and 117 tackles along the way in the regular season. The national media took notice, and Selmon was named the NFL’s 1979 Defensive Player of the Year or Defensive Most Valuable Player by several different news organizations and received an invitation to the Pro Bowl for the first of what would turn out to be six consecutive seasons, including a co-MVP award in the 1982 Pro Bowl.
Although Selmon continued to play well following the magical 1979 season, earning All-Pro honors three more times and being voted Defensive Lineman of the Year by his fellow players in 1980, 1982, and 1983, the Buccaneer team couldn’t match its level of excellence. After having gone 10-6 in 1979, the Bucs only managed a 5-10-1 record in 1980, and went an embarrassing 2-14 in 1983.
Selmon sat out the entire 1985 season due to a herniated disc, and announced his retirement in April 1986. Among his final career statistics, 78 1/2 sacks and 28 1/2 forced fumbles in nine seasons; he had started 117 games as a Buccaneer, a record broken by only one player since (offensive lineman Paul Gruber). During the first game of the 1986 season, in September, the Buccaneers paid tribute to Selmon, retiring his number 63. As of 2002, he was the only player to have been so honored by the Bucs.
In 1988, Selmon was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and his bronze bust was installed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
After retiring, Selmon continued to live in the Tampa Bay area, working in marketing for the since-merged-out-of-existence First Florida Banks. In 1993, Selmon became an associate athletic director at the University of South Florida in Tampa, helping to start a college football program from scratch at USF. Eight years later, in 2001, he was promoted into the athletic director position.
In 1996, his name was added to a toll road in Tampa, which became the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, and in 2000, he finally took the step that seems to be required of all sports hall of famers and opened a restaurant, Lee Roy Selmon’s, with memorabilia all over the walls and specializing in barbecue and claiming to have “soul-satisfying Southern cooking,” which seems odd because neither Eufala, Oklahoma, nor Tampa, Florida, is particularly Southern. The rationale is that Selmon’s mother had a repertoire of Southern dishes, although because the restaurant is actually owned by the Outback Steakhouse company, there was probably a focus group or two involved as well.