Tackle Paul Gruber will be inducted into Bucs Ring of Honor
Paul Gruber was among the league’s best left tackles during his 12 NFL seasons, despite never making a Pro Bowl.
But because he did not play on a team with a winning record until 1997, when the Tony Dungy-led Bucs, wearing pewter and red for the first season, defeated the Detroit Lions in the NFC wildcard game, recognition did come easily to Gruber.
All that is about to change.
Gruber will become the fourth inductee into the Bucs Ring of Honor during the 2012 season, joining Lee Roy Selmon, coach John McKay and tight end Jimmie Giles.
“I think that’s probably true, I didn’t get a lot of recognition,’’ Gruber told the Times from Colorado Tuesday. “But it was a game I enjoyed playing and I enjoyed competing every week at a high level. Recognition is not really why I did what I did.’’
The Bucs have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to reveal that Gruber, a first-round pick from Wisconsin in 1988, will enter the Ring of Honor. He will be officially inducted during halftime of a game in the 2012 season when the Bucs wear their orange and white throwback uniforms.
In a way, Gruber is a perfect link from the Buccaneers of the 70’s and 80’s with the current era which began with the purchase of the franchise by Malcolm Glazer from the Hugh Culverhouse estate in 1995.
Gruber said the highlight of his career was beating the Lions 20-10 in NFC wildcard game, the final NFL contest played at Tampa Stadium. The next week, the Bucs lost the divisional playoff at Green Bay 21-7.
The Bucs missed the post-season in 1998, when Raymond James Stadium opened. But the next year, they advanced to the NFC Championship game against the St. Louis Rams, losing 11-6.
Gruber, who never missed a game in his career due to injury, was unable to play however. He fractured his leg in the regular-season finale at Chicago, a game in which the Bucs clinched the NFC Central title. Gruber retired after the '99 season.
“Beating Detroit in that playoff game was a special feeling and probably the highlight of my career,’’ Gruber said. “It broke a streak of no playoff wins since 1982 and was the last game played at Tampa Stadium.’’
These days, Gruber lives a few hours outside of Denver, Colorado. An avid outdoorsman, he has spent his retirement enjoying his family and dabbling in real estate.
Gruber said he was preparing to fly to Tampa for Wednesday’s news conference.
“It’s a real honor,’’ Gruber said. “I haven’t played the game in quite awhile, so to be recognized in this way is really special. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.’’