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Tampa Bay Buccaneers legend Lee Roy Selmon showing signs of improvement after stroke

TAMPA — Lee Roy Selmon was responsive to family members and showed small signs of improvement a day after suffering a stroke in his Tampa home, his brother Dewey Selmon said. But his condition will be better defined, he said, when results of tests taken Saturday morning become available over the weekend.

"We're happy with the progress he has made," Dewey Selmon said. "Lee Roy is a fighter. It's just a delicate situation, and we are all waiting."

Dewey Selmon said he was told by doctors that the first 48 hours after a stroke are crucial. While Lee Roy Selmon remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit of St. Joseph's Hospital, there have been a few encouraging signs. Selmon, 56, has been responsive to some family members, Dewey said.

"And that's the good news," he said.

Lee Roy Selmon, the only member of the Buccaneers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, suffered symptoms of an apparent stroke Friday afternoon and reportedly was not breathing when paramedics arrived at his home.

An iconic figure in the NFL and one of Tampa Bay's best ambassadors, Selmon was surrounded by family at the hospital — just a few lengths of a football field away from One Buc Place where players gathered for a special teams practice Saturday morning.

David Lewis, a teammate of Selmon's with the Bucs from 1977 to 1981 and now an assistant football coach at Tampa Catholic High School, visited the hospital late Friday and spoke with family members, including Lee Roy Jr., who told him his dad was able to recognize some family members and move his hands and fingers.

Lewis said that numerous members of Selmon's family, including brothers Lucious and Dewey, also were with him Friday night and that he observed the scene through a window.

"It was tough seeing him in that position," Lewis said.

"The family is praying and hopeful and maintaining its faith," Lewis said. " … He has strong faith. His family has a strong belief. He's a Hall of Famer in every way. He never let the franchise down. He never let the community down. He never let his fellow man down."

Selmon spearheaded a drive to start the football program at the University of South Florida, and his efforts helped raise funds to build the program's main athletic facility, as well as provide recent upgrades with new stadiums for baseball, softball and soccer. Lee Roy Selmon Jr. was a defensive tackle for the Bulls from 1999 to 2004.

Selmon was scheduled to travel to South Bend, Ind., on Saturday morning to watch the Bulls play Notre Dame. The Bulls wore No. 63, Selmon's jersey number, on the back of their helmets during the game.

"We're aware he's in the hospital. We know it's serious," USF athletic director Doug Woolard said in South Bend. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him, and we're hopeful for a full recovery. He was excited about coming here and planning on coming up (Saturday) to be a part of this. I told him I couldn't have scheduled this game without Lee Roy Selmon, because we probably wouldn't have football at USF without what you did to bring football to USF."

Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris said that he's praying for Selmon's full recovery and that the first inductee into the team's Ring of Honor will pay another visit to the Bucs soon.

"What he has meant to us has been unbelievable," Morris said after practice Saturday. "Lee Roy Selmon was a constant here at Buccaneer camp. Hopefully he'll be back here shortly, and we'll get him back a part of this. What he means for our community — and not only our community, but NFL history, period — is phenomenal.

"Thankfully, we can all pray for him and have him in our prayers and hope that everything works out."

Morris said the quiet Selmon has always been an example for how Bucs players should give back to the community.

"He's not a big sounding board guy," Morris said. "He's kind of a lead-by-example guy. I've kind of learned that being around him. He moves in silence. He always has. He's very appreciative. He's one of the guys you want to bring your young players around and meet and see to learn how to act and how to be a professional."

Among the young players influenced by Selmon is second-year defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, a fellow Oklahoma Sooner.

"With me being who I am and playing the same position, coming from Oklahoma, I couldn't help but hear about him," McCoy told the team's website. "He's always been an inspiration to me because of the type of person he's been, not what he did on the field, and I try to model myself after him. He's been one of my mentors since I got drafted to Tampa, and I couldn't have been put in a better situation than to have a mentor like him around me. He's always been great to me, and I wish him a speedy recovery."

Dewey said Lee Roy knows a lot of people are praying for his recovery.

"From the very start, Lee Roy Selmon has been there for his team and his community," the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, said in a statement. "Now, he and the whole Selmon family should know our family and the entire Buccaneer organization is thinking of and praying for him."

Times staff writers Greg Auman and Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers legend Lee Roy Selmon showing signs of improvement after stroke 09/03/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 1:56pm]
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