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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Alstott goes out in style




Mike Alstott with his wife Nicole, son Griffin and daughters Hannah and Lexi. [Photo by Daniel Wallace, Times]

Mike Alstott always got the tough yards for his teammates.

On Saturday night, they responded by helping him take the final step away from the game he loved.

The Bucs hosted a lavish retirement party for Alstott in the west club lounge of Raymond James Stadium.

It was an invitation only, black tie affair that a simple lunchpail guy like Alstott had warmed up to.

What struck you was this: the running back who scatttered tacklers like bowling pins always had a way of bringing his team together.

This was no exception.

They came from every corner of the country to honor the end of Alstott's 12-year career that included six Pro Bowls, one Super Bowl title and 71 touchdowns.

Tony Dungy, Rod Marinelli, Mike Shula, John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Brad Johnson, Dexter Jackson, Trent Dilfer, Ronde Barber, Lorenzo Neal, Joe Jurevicius, Simeon Rice, Booger McFarland -- all of them and hundreds more were on hand Saturday to honor Alstott.

No. 40 photos lined the dining hall. A 15-minute highlight film was followed by former Bucs tight end Dave Moore, Alstott's closest friend, offering a champagne toast.

The arrival of taped tributes - from ESPN's Chris Berman, former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman to Miss Nevada and Subway's Jared -- were signalled by the blaring of the trademark train horn, now silenced forever.

Alstott was overwhelmed, frankly.

Dungy, who drafted Alstott in the second round from Purdue in 1996, said he had been to the retirement parties of Hall of Fame players and nothing ever eclipsed this sendoff arranged by the Glazer family.

"I was blessed to coach Mike Alstott," Dungy said.

The highlight of the player tributes was Sapp, Brooks and Lynch sharing their memories of Alstott at the podium together.

Brooks and Lynch spoke of how they learned early in their careers not to ever hit the A-train in practice.

"That's what we call a clavicle buster,'' Chiefs coach Herm Edwards told Lynch one day in practice.

Sapp said he considered Alstott 'family,' and recounted how his pre-game routine always ended with him head-butting Alstott. "Because I had Brooks and Lynch and he had nobody,'' Sapp said.

In case you're wondering, yes, Bucs coach Jon Gruden attended the gala. He did not speak. As one member of the organization put it, it was probably appropriate since Alstott was seldom used as a runner during six seasons under Gruden.

Credit the Glazer family for helping to organize the event.

Alstott's retirement has been inevitable since training camp when he re-injured his neck for the second time in his career.

But it was hard to say good-bye. "I look at that picture of him running the football and I just can't believe that we'll never see that again," said Alstott's brother, Mark.

Get used to it. Sapp is retired. Lynch plans to play one more year for the Broncos. Barber and Brooks are knocking on the door.

But for one special night, they came together to celebrate the career of Alstott.

"Everyone here helped my dreams come true,'' Alstott said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 2:58pm]


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