Last stop for the A-Train
A visibly emotional Alstott said he had dreamed of becoming a professional football player since childhood. "It's hard to stand in front of you today and say that dream is over,'' he said.
Alstott, a second-round draft pick out of Purdue in 1996, was known for his love of the game and punishing running style. He leaves the game as the Bucs' all-time leader in touchdowns (71) and rushing touchdowns (65). He made six Pro Bowls.
"This is a tribute to a great football player, but a better person,'' general manager Bruce Allen said.
Alstott was joined on the dais in the team meeting room at One Buc Place by Allen, coach Jon Gruden, executive vice president Bryan Glazer and Alstott's wife, Nicole. Alstott's No. 40 was draped dramatically over the podium.
"All I can do is celebrate a great career, an unbelieveable career, as a player and a teammate,'' Gruden said.
Alstott indicated the second neck injury that he suffered in training camp would prevent him from playing football again. He spent this season on injured reserve but still traveled with the team and was on the sidelines during games.
He said discussions are ongoing that will allow him to remain part of the Bucs' organization.
Many of Alstott's teammates attended the announcement, including Ronde Barber, Michael Pittman, Anthony Becht and Chris Hovan. Bryan Glazer presented Nicole Alstott with 40 red roses.
Glazer said since 1990, only 17 of the 7,325 players in the NFL during that span played more than 11 years with the same team.
"It's an amazing figure for an amazing man,'' Glazer said.
Alstott fought to hold back tears and his voice broke three times during an emotional farewell speech in which he thanked his coaches, teammates and numerous members of the organization - past and present - who helped him during his celebrated career.
Among the coaches he thanked was Tony Dungy, who along with former general manager Rich McKay drafted Alstott in the second round out of Purdue in 1996.
“It all started with Coach Dungy, who brought me into this organization as a young player,'' Alstott said.
"I was honored to be able to be coached by a man who not only gave us football wisdom but also taught us great life lessons, someone who gave us guidance, someone who took us under his wing. We were able to look up to him as a father figure and I continue to look up to him this day.''
With a core of players like Derrick Brooks, Barber, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Hardy Nickerson and Warrick Dunn, Alstott helped turn around the fortunes of a franchise that had 12 double-digit losing seasons into a perennial playoff contender that reached the NFC Championship game in 1999 with Dungy and won Super Bowl XXXVII in Jon Gruden's first season.
"Together, we put the Buccaneers on the map,'' Alstott said. "The relationships with these guys is something that can never be taken away from me.
"Even though I will not be able to be in the locker room or on that gridiron,'' he said, fighting back tears, ""with these guys again, our families will remain close, our relationships will remain strong.''
Known for his battering ram running style, Alstott always has been a fan favorite for his blue collar work ethic and the crowd erupted whenever they heard the horn calling for the A-Train.
“To the city of Tampa and all the Buccaneers fans, thank you,'' Alstott said. "My appreciation for you is truly can’t be expressed. Your love and support over the past 12 years has been second to none. When we went on that field on Sundays, we weren’t just playing for ourselves, we were playing for you.
"And although I will never experience the feeling of running out of the tunnel and hearing the roar of the crowd,'' he said with his voice breaking, "and the train horn, the memories you’ve given me will be forever. Thank you again for allowing me to call Tampa Bay my home.''
Alstott thanked his wife for supporting his career, calling her, ''my best friend.''
He also got emotional when speaking to his three children and was grateful they were able to share in his career.
"I feel so fortunate to be a father and have my kids experience my career,'' Alstott said. ""They see me as daddy. (Crying). Not a professional football player. Biting lip. They’ve kept me grounded my whole career. At the end of the day, nothing is better than getting home to them and having their hugs and kisses allow me to forget all the day’s stresses associated with football.''