TAMPA — 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, a Bucs linebacker from 1993-99 who was named to five Pro Bowls, coached linebackers in 2007 on Smith's staff with the Bears. He is expected to coach linebackers for the Bucs.
"To bring back a guy like Hardy Nickerson, the tradition here with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, of course, he was a big part of it. He knew how to play the linebacker position as well as anyone," Smith said Tuesday on SiriusXM Sports Radio.
Nickerson, 48, stepped down in November as football coach at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif.
Monday, Smith said of assembling his staff: "It would be great to get an old Buccaneer back on our staff. 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 been offered a position with the Bucs. He was in Pasadena, Calif., Monday attending the BCS national championship game.
"It's a great move to get Hardy back here to coach this group,'' Brooks said. "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 strong teachers to fill out his 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. Assembling a coaching staff is one of the most important things you can do. What I was looking for in our coaching staff is stern teachers that can relate to players."
Nickerson inherits a strong group of linebackers led by Lavonte David, who was named to his first All-Pro team last week in his second pro season.
Nickerson played 16 seasons for the Steelers, Bucs, Jaguars and Packers. He was the first high-profile free agent to sign with the Bucs and was a cornerstone in the team's turnaround.
Nickerson mentored linebackers such as Brooks and Shelton Quarles and set a relentlessly aggressive tone in practice and in games. His leadership influenced others. Nickerson was a roommate in training camp with Warren Sapp in '95, Sapp's rookie year in a Hall of Fame career.
With the Bucs, Nickerson was named to five Pro Bowls, was a four-time All Pro and named to the '90s All-Decade team. He set the template for Bucs players off the field with charitable contributions and was named the Byron "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year in 1997.
In 2006, Nickerson served as the Bucs' radio analyst. He left the next season to coach linebackers for Smith and the Bears. Health issues in his family forced him to resign after one season.
Nickerson is the eighth reported assistant on Smith's staff. A report Tuesday had Andrew Hayes-Stoker, an assistant receivers coach with the Bears from 2010-12 and an assistant at Florida International this past season, joining as receiver coach. Hayes-Stoker, 34, once backed up LaDainian Tomlinson at TCU.
"The staff is falling into place,'' Smith said. "We have a little bit to go, but we're making progress."