Ex-Buc Nickerson will join Smith's coaching staff
Lovie Smith wished aloud to have a former Bucs player on his coaching staff and it was granted Tuesday when Hardy Nickerson agreed to return to Tampa Bay as an assistant coach.
Nickerson, who played for the Bucs from '93-'99 and was named to five Pro Bowls, coached linebackers for one season in 2007 on Smith's staff with the Chicago Bears. He is expected to coach linebackers for the Bucs.
Nickerson, 48, stepped down in November as head football coach at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif. During his four seasons he compiled 29-17 record.
During his introductory news conference, Smith spoke of his desire to have a former Bucs player on his coaching staff.
"As I’m putting our coaching staff together right now, hopefully there are – it would be great to get an old Buccaneer back on our staff,'' Smith said Monday. "I’m not talking (just) about Derrick (Brooks) – it would be great to get an old Buccaneer back on the staff.''
Brooks, the president of the Tampa Bay Storm, said he has not yet been offered or accepted a position with the Bucs. He was in Pasadena, Calif., Monday attending the BCS national championship game.
"I do believe Hardy is hired,'' Brooks said. "It's a great move to get Hardy back here to coach this group. He set the foundation years ago of the linebacker play and expectations on and off the field. He is a man of character who will work hard at his craft.
"I'm just excited to see him more often and will help him as much as he wants me to. Welcome back, Coach Hardware.''
Smith said Monday he wanted a strong group of teachers to fill out his coaching staff.
"There’s a lot that goes into it – some experience, some youth, guys with an expertise at certain things and just getting guys that can work together,'' Smith said. "I have spent a lot of time. That’s why I was able to really move pretty quick on lining the guys up that I wanted on that coaching staff. Assembling a coaching staff is one of the most important things you can do. For me, what I was looking for in our coaching staff is stern teachers that can relate to players.''
Nickerson inherits a stong group of linebackers led by Lavonte David, who was named to his first All Pro team last week in only his second pro season.
Nickerson played 16 seasons in the NFL for the Steelers, Bucs, Jaguars and Packers. He was the first high-profile free agent to sign with the Bucs and is credited as a cornerstone in the team's turnaround at middle linebacker.
Nickerson mentored linebackers such as Brooks and Shelton Quarles and set a relentlessly aggressive tone for the defense in practice and in games. His leadership influenced other players. Nickerson was a roommate in training camp with Warren Sapp in '95, his rookie year in a Hall of Fame career.
During his time with the Bucs, Nickerson was named to five Pro Bowls, was a four-time All Pro and named to the All-Decade team for the 90's. He also set the template for Bucs players off the field with his charitable contributions and also was named the Byron 'Whizzer' White NFL Man of the Year in '97.
In 2006, Nickerson served as the Bucs' analyst on their radio network with play-by-play man Gene Deckerhoff. He left the next season to coach linebackers for Smith and the Bears. But health issues within his family forced him to re-sign after only one season.