TAMPA — For a generation of high school football players who never saw Lee Roy Selmon play beyond NFL Films footage, the Bucs Hall of Famer still remained close to the prep sports community.
"He was ubiquitous around town," Tampa Catholic coach Bob Henriquez said. "I had a number of kids come up to me during and after the game on Friday and say they knew Mr. Selmon, that he went to their parish or there was an occasion when they got in trouble in middle school and he spoke to them and tried to set them straight. He had an amazingly positive effect on this community.
"He did a lot and still had a lot to do," Henriquez said.
Selmon died Sunday two days after suffering a stroke. But Selmon's community contributions transcended his athletic ability.
He was one of the most accessible athletes in the area, always willing to pass on a life lesson to a young athlete. He was close to the Tampa Catholic program. Selmon spoke to the Tampa Catholic football team before its 2A state title game in 2007. Selmon was the godfather of former Crusaders star quarterback and current Florida State wide receiver Christian Green, Henriquez said.
"It's amazing how available he was for someone of his stature," Henriquez said. "If you wanted him to speak to your team or at a banquet or to a particular kid, he always made himself available. His message was always more about having class and lessons off the field."
His mark on Tampa neighborhoods knew no bounds. Blake coach Harry Hubbard said Selmon spoke at the All-Pro Dad event in April at Raymond James Stadium.
"I think that when you have a person of his caliber, there's no way that they should not know about him," Hubbard said. "We're truly suffering a big loss. It's still hard to believe that he's passed. I'll miss him as a friend."
When Robert Weiner was looking to raise money in his first days as Plant football coach in 2004, he turned to Selmon, whose restaurant catered team meals and offered fundraisers that allowed the Panthers to keep 100 percent of the proceeds.
"We were able to raise thousands of dollars every year because of that," Weiner said.
A Plant football helmet is one of the many that adorn Selmon's restaurant in West Tampa, and during one visit to the restaurant, Weiner said, Selmon rushed out to thank him to allowing him to display the helmet.
"The honor was the other way around," Weiner said. "I think that's just an example of how humble he was. He always deflected the glory away from himself even though he was the center of it."
So even though today's teenager would seem removed from Selmon's legacy, he was always close to the high school fields of Hillsborough County.
"He's not a contemporary player, but the kids know who Lee Roy Selmon is," Henriquez said. "He was everywhere where he was needed in the community. It was never about him. His legacy is unmatched. It's amazing that for someone who came to this city to play football and has given back to anybody who's ever lived here."
Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @EddieHometeam.