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Lee Roy Selmon interview remains a cherished memento

Sentiment lies in the eye of the beholder.

A treasured memento in one man's hands may appear ordinary to someone else. A box full of handwritten letters, an empty champagne bottle and a college course catalog might get thrown out with the trash — or they might be treated with the kind of care you would reserve for a gold bullion.

A framed article I once wrote about Lee Roy Selmon, who passed away in 2011, held such value when it hung on the walls of his original restaurant on Boy Scout Boulevard in Tampa.

Over the years, I've managed to win a few national and regional journalism awards (none recently, my editor says) but I've always told folks — only half-joking — that to have an article adorn the wall in Selmon's stood as the real career highlight.

When the restaurant opened, I had no idea it would be posted along with other Tampa Bay Times stories about Selmon, so I got a charge the first time I walked in and saw it.

Sure, it was on a wall near the restroom, but that didn't dim my enthusiasm. If anything, I kept wondering why I didn't get the spot above the urinals. Seriously.

Still, I showed the article to anyone who took time to humor me after a meal: my wife, my kids, my friends, the servers — even strangers who walked out of the restroom with me.

"See that story? I wrote that. Yep. That's me. I'm the man."

One of the reasons the article holds such meaning is because it represents one of the few moments I got to sit down and really talk to Selmon, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Pro Football Hall of Fame member who accomplished as much off the field as he did on the field.

When the Hall of Fame announced Selmon as a member of its 1995 class, the Times published a special section that chronicled his life — from childhood to college to the Bucs and beyond.

We invited Selmon to the St. Petersburg office and put him at the head of a conference room table. Each reporter lined up to interview Selmon about their particular assignment. I got the honor of writing about his childhood and high school days.

Selmon, who grew up on a farm in tiny Eufaula, Okla., shared how he may have never played football if the Eufaula High coach hadn't introduced him to the game.

With the patience of Job, he spent a couple of hours answering every reporter's questions. Most of us sat and listened even when we finished with our own inquiries. Selmon infused down-home humor in his storytelling.

So I always reminisced about that day when I saw the story hanging on the wall. But one day I walked in and it was gone — removed after a remodel. Gasp!

In fact, all the Times articles from that special section had been taken down except the story written by former staffer Don Banks — which still holds that same spot above the urinal. What a lucky guy.

On more than one occasion, my ego asked management what happened to the article. You know I can't control that thing.

Then I got an email last month from general manager Dru Kniskern that they had found the article — intact in the original frame.

Now I have the article and I'm not sure what to do with it. My ego says, go and ask them to put it up in another of its restaurants — maybe the one in the Brandon.

But my sentimental side says hold on to it.

After all, I need something to prove to my grandkids that I once met Lee Roy Selmon.

That's all I'm saying.

Lee Roy Selmon interview remains a cherished memento 04/11/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 2:48pm]
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