Bucs great Paul Gruber hailed as model of consistency
There was a game late in Paul Gruber’s career when something seemingly came over him, he lost his temper and launched into a fierce on-field fight with former Bears defensive lineman Alonzo Spellman.
It ended with both players being ejected, but more than anything, it seemed out of character for the mild-mannered former Wisconsin Badger.
At just about every other moment, Gruber, announced as the newest member of the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor today, was perfectly predicable.
When asked to block the likes of Minnesota’s fierce pass rusher, Chris Doleman, Gruber did it reliably -- usually without the aid of a tight end.
When asked to help lead a wayward team at the request of then-rookie coach Tony Dungy, Gruber willingly accepted the task and taught his younger teammates to be pros.
It’s what the Bucs wanted and needed from their left tackle, and he did it well for 12 seasons.
“He was certainly worthy of the fourth overall pick in the 1988 NFL draft,” Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said. “. . . He went on to become everything you’d want in a left tackle: Dependable, dependable, dependable.”
Gruber becomes the fourth member of the Ring of Honor, joining inaugural member Lee Roy Selmon, coach John McKay and tight end Jimmie Giles.
Gruber will be inducted at halftime of the Bucs’ Oct. 14 game against the Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium. That game will not, however, be the Bucs’ throwback game because Gruber’s induction will coincide with a tribute to the 1997 team, the first to wear today’s red and pewter uniforms and the first to return to the postseason since the early 1980s.
He played in 183 consecutive games and, at one time, went 4,850 straight snaps without missing one. But Gruber didn’t spend much time today talking about individual accomplishments.
He instead focused on moments like that 1997 postseason, when the Bucs defeated the Lions in a wildcard game, the last game at Tampa Stadium. The revelry that followed is still fresh in Gruber’s mind.
“The thing I remember most was the atmosphere after we won,” Gruber said. “It was just crazy. There were fireworks. . . There were players running around the field with Bucs flags. It really was just the start of something, I think.”
Gruber’s news conference was attended by several people with whom he forged relationships during his time in Tampa, including Dungy, former linebacker Derrick Brooks, former fullback Mike Alstott and Giles, last year’s honoree.
Dungy recalled fondly what an example Gruber set for others.
“For a coach to be able to be able to say, ‘Just look over at his locker and do what he does and you’re going to be fine,’’’ Dungy said, “is huge.”