TAMPA — Come halftime Sunday, Doug Williams will proudly take his place in the Bucs' Ring of Honor, a moment he wasn't always sure would come.
"At the end of the day, you talk about honoring players that have been in the organization. I thought one day that it might've come," said Williams, 60, who took a franchise that lost its first 26 games and led it to the 1979 NFC Championship Game. "You don't know when it's coming. I think when it does come, you've just got to be appreciative of it."
Williams, a first-round draft pick (17th overall) in 1978 out of Grambling, played five years with the Bucs, reaching the playoffs in three of his last four. But a bitter contract squabble led him to the newly formed USFL, then to the Redskins, where he became the first African-American starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl in the 1987 season.
Williams has a place in the Redskins' Ring of Fame, but being enshrined in Tampa, where his pro career began, is special for him.
"The good thing about this whole situation," he said Thursday, "is no matter what happens to Doug Williams in the future, Doug Williams will be hanging in Raymond James."
Williams is the eighth member of the Ring of Honor and the second to be inducted this season. Fullback Mike Alstott had his induction in October. Williams joins his former coach, the late John McKay, and tight end Jimmie Giles, a frequent target of his.
"The one thing about Coach McKay — and everybody told me this — was that if he put an 'ie' at the end of your name, you were one of his favorites," Williams said. "And he always called me 'Dougie.' "
Williams had a contentious relationship with previous Bucs owners but said he has "never had a beef" with the Glazer family, even when he was let go from a front-office role after six years in 2010. He returned to the Redskins last year and works as a personnel executive under former Bucs and now Washington general manager Bruce Allen.
The impact of the Bucs' first franchise quarterback still resonates with its current quarterback, rookie Jameis Winston. He looks to Williams as a mentor as he seeks to bring the Bucs back to the postseason.
"We have a tight bond," said Winston, who met Williams at a college football awards show in 2012. "Ever since then, he's been constantly staying on me, telling me to stay the course. … It's an honor that we're honoring him and his accomplishments with Tampa Bay."
Bucs coach Lovie Smith, three years younger than Williams, said Williams was an inspiration to young African-Americans who saw him succeed.
"Just a great ambassador for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for all of us that know Doug Williams and know what he represents," Smith said. "It's a special time, and Doug is definitely one that should get that type of recognition."
For years, Bucs fans lamented a supposed "Curse of Doug Williams," which kept the team without a winning season for 14 years after he left for the now-defunct USFL. As he prepares to join the team's most honored fraternity, Williams said there was no such curse — at least by his doing.
"Let me say this: If I was going to curse the team, the games that they won, they wouldn't have," Williams said. "That's why I would say 'No.' Unless somebody did it on my behalf, because I had nothing to do with it."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.