Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hundreds pay respects to Tampa Bay Bucs legend Lee Roy Selmon

TAMPA — They came in Lincoln Navigators, Lexus sedans, dented minivans, wingtips, wheelchairs and walkers from all across Tampa Bay to mourn "the Greatest Buccaneer," who had touched all of them with his giant hands and humble heart.

Pro football players, college students, bankers, churchgoers, neighbors and plain old fans: They all had a story to share about Lee Roy Selmon, a bone-jarring NFL legend who became just like them — only better — when he removed his jersey.

Selmon, 56, also a civic leader, bank vice president and University of South Florida athletic director whose name graces a Hillsborough County expressway, died Sunday after a stroke. Thirty minutes before his visitation Thursday, attended by hundreds, people lined up to get into Selmon's home church, Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church.

At the front of the line stood Torya Hills, 46, carrying a box of tissues. She first met Selmon decades ago as a teen in a fried chicken drive-through. A customer had just scolded her for getting an order mixed up. Selmon followed in a station wagon and told Hills, "Don't worry. She ordered just what you said she did. You're doing a great job!"

Selmon's wife leaned over from the passenger seat and smiled to add encouragement.

Years later, Hills worked as hostess at Selmon's namesake restaurant during its grand opening. While he chit-chatted with her, famous celebrities came up but he wouldn't abandon their conversation. Instead, he calmly introduced Hills to the professional athletes "as if I was somebody," she said.

It was the same way he treated Roesolia Young, 82, a restaurant customer who met him maybe twice, showing her pictures of his own mother on the wall, explaining how the meals included her recipes.

"A guy you could approach," Young said.

Earl Kagler's wife once saw him in 1978 and whispered, "There's Lee Roy Selmon." Selmon heard it, turned and shook their hands, Kagler, 67, said.

He served as a Boys & Girls Club mentor for Maggie Williams, e-mailing, calling and meeting with her, extolling her to become what she became: a 24-year-old straight-A USF student.

She was too distraught to attend Thursday, but her mother, Ruth, took her place.

The relationship that veterinarian Eddie Garcia, 69, shared with Selmon was ordinary after they attended Leadership Tampa civic classes together decades ago.

"He knew who I was," Garcia said, "and I knew he was."

But when Garcia had a tough time arranging tickets to see Selmon enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he called his former classmate for help.

Selmon got Garcia and his son tickets — next to his own family.

He seemed perfect but he wasn't, onetime USF co-worker Mike Lewis pointed out. He was an awful golfer. But he humbly made sure everyone knew it every time before teeing off, Lewis, 51, said.

"I'm not very good," he'd say before shanking a drive.

At church, Ray Thomas, 61, noticed how Selmon never jetted off after Sunday service but stuck around shaking hands, even as the church emptied. "He laughed at my dumb jokes," Thomas said.

Lo White, 32, went to USF with Selmon's daughter. When White visited the Selmon home, she thought he seemed like her own father.

Nathan Bisk, 65, one of the founding contributors to USF's football program, remembers how difficult it was to find out-of-the-way restaurants to avoid crowds at lunch. Everywhere Selmon went, Bisk recalled, people thanked him for a quiet, charitable act few knew about.

All Thursday night, people told story after story — so much so that it seemed more of a loud celebration than a grave remembrance before an open casket.

At one point, a church official rose to the pulpit and told the large crowd to quiet down and be respectful. But the Rev. Jeffery Singletary didn't mind.

"It's infectious," he said. "Lee Roy had a way to make you feel like everything was going to be all right. He had those huge hands when he touched you on the shoulder. You knew everything was going to be all right."

That's what Selmon would want to show them now, Singletary said. Everything is all right.

Justin George can be reached at or (813) 226-3368.


Services for Lee Roy Selmon, the Bucs Hall of Fame defensive end and former USF athletic director, will be at 10 a.m. today at Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, 18371 N Dale Mabry Highway (entrances on Van Dyke Road and Crystal Lake Road) in Lutz. The family has suggested that in lieu of flowers, those wishing to further honor Mr. Selmon's memory consider making donations to Abe Brown Ministries, (813) 247-3285, or the University of South Florida Foundation Partnership for Athletics, (813) 974-2125. Bright House Sports Network (Channel 47 and HD1147) will carry the Selmon funeral live beginning at 10 a.m. today.

Hundreds pay respects to Tampa Bay Bucs legend Lee Roy Selmon 09/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 8, 2011 10:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays hoping RHP Romo can regain form, help bullpen



  2. O.J. Simpson had a 'conflict-free life'? Not really, not in Florida


    LOS ANGELES — When O.J. Simpson told a Nevada parole board last week that he's led a "conflict-free life," he seemed to overlook a few episodes that had him cycling in and out of courtrooms and jail cells for nearly 20 years before the Las Vegas hotel-room heist that sent him to prison in 2008.

    Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday, July 20, 2017.  Simpson was granted parole Thursday after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel heist, successfully making his case in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America's enduring fascination with the former football star.  [The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP]
  3. Baby Charlie protesters to rally as hospital reports threats


    LONDON — Protesters who want critically ill British baby Charlie Gard to receive an experimental medical treatment are planning a rally and prayer vigil Sunday, while hospital officials say emotions are running so high in the heart-breaking case they have received death threats.

    Reverend Patrick Mahoney from Washington DC, centre, speaks to the media outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, as he joins other Charlie Gard supporters, Sunday July 23, 2017. Protesters who want critically ill British baby Charlie Gard to receive an experimental medical treatment gathered for a rally and prayer vigil Sunday, while hospital officials say emotions are running so high in the heart-breaking case they have received death threats. [Associated Press]
  4. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]