If you see former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Ian Beckles on the street or coaching at a Tampa Bay Youth Football League game, hosting his popular Blue and White charity party for the Children's Cancer Center or in his favorite South Tampa restaurant, don't be shy about stopping him for a chat.
Some athletes prefer to live in high-security gated communities. They desire solitude after working in front of thousands of eyes scrutinizing their every move.
Following a 10-year NFL career that ended in 2000, Beckles and his family settled in Culbreath Isles. He lived in other communities during his six years playing in Tampa, but South Tampa reminded him of his home growing up in Montreal.
He enjoys interacting with people and his post-football life proves it. He co-hosts with radio veteran Ron Diaz from 9 a.m.-noon Monday through Friday on WDAE-AM 620. The show is a mix of sports, politics, kids, women and life's daily oddities.
Beckles co-owns a clothing store on Henderson Boulevard called AS-I-B (an acronym for "a star is born," to promote being yourself). The store has an athletic line, hip-hop apparel and skate wear.
In a wide-ranging interview, Beckles discussed his love for South Tampa and grilling and eating — and, of course, football.
Many athletes settle in Cheval, Avila or Tampa Palms, so why South Tampa?
It's a close-knit area and everybody knows each other, and I like that. I like going to a restaurant and knowing people. And I'm not scared of people bothering me. I kind of need people gravitating toward me because popularity is a big thing being in the media.
What's your typical day like since retirement?
I dabbled in some other things. I tried a restaurant (he owned a Blimpies franchise on West Shore and Kennedy), and that wasn't my passion. It was a lot of work for very little payback and a lot of headaches. I always knew I wanted to own a business, whether it was a restaurant, or I've always been into fashion. And I was telling my wife for years I was going to start a clothing line and she thought I was crazy. Then I met up with (Abilio "Billy" Castro) about three years ago. He had already established AS-I-B, and we developed a friendship and a bond and we partnered up about a year ago. It's come a long way.
How hard was the transition back into the real world?
It's hard when you first get out because it's a void that you can't replace. When you run out of the tunnel and there's 80,000 people cheering for you, that's exhilarating. Then you're walking around the mall and one person recognizes you, it's obviously not the same.
Do football players have to have dual personalities, for on and off the field?
No question, football players have two sides. You don't want to run up on a football player. I've never had a problem turning it off and on, but I always tell people, the place I had to get (mentally) before a game is the place you have to get before you fight. That's hard to explain, but I used to cry before games because I was so wound up. I wasn't as big as everybody else, so in my head I always thought that everybody is trying to replace me, and I have to play harder than everybody else. ...
I've changed since I retired. But when I was playing there was so much pressure in the job I didn't enjoy my life that much. I was so caught up in playing football that I wasn't that pleasant to be around.
Did you think about working in radio while playing?
It's odd, because when I played in Tampa I didn't listen to sports radio. ...
But I was always curious about it. Then when I came back to Tampa somebody turned on a radio station, and I thought it was garbage what they were saying. And there's good radio and bad radio. But I said to myself "I can do that." ... A woman who was a good friend came up to me in the gym and said they're looking for somebody to do the Bucs pregame show on 620. I interviewed and got the job.
Do you want to work for ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.?
Sure, I'd like it to lead to other things, but not outside Tampa because I don't want to leave. When I leave Tampa, I'm just a big guy who used to play football. I'm trying to establish some ties here by being seen, doing good things in the community and being around positive people.
How did your house get to be party central when the Bucs are playing?
I love to entertain, I love to cook, and I'm a master smoker on my Big Green Egg, and my room above our garage is an entertaining room. I have a 10-by-6 screen and people like to hang out up there. You know if you come to my house on Sunday something's going to be going on. And a lot of people have told me they like the family atmosphere because I have three kids running around, and my wife's cooking and people feel like they're home.
Your relationship with Jon Gruden?
Jon was my coach in Philadelphia, and I was okay with him there. Then I (was the reporter on) the (Jon Gruden Show) with him when he became the head coach here and maybe I was too abrasive in my line of questioning, but I can't be that company guy. I can't get on the radio for three hours and give you my opinion, then go on the Jon Gruden Show and make it all rosy. I have to ask him the tough questions. I thought it was good radio. But it was obvious he was pretty perturbed with the questions I was sending at him. So after my first year, they didn't want me to come back. They (the Bucs) paid me not to come back, so that was cool.
Is it hard for you to talk about players objectively?
It's not, because I find that listeners deserve my true opinion. I'm friends with Dave Moore, but if he drops a pass in the back of the end zone I'm going to say Dave has to make that catch. He knows that. If Mike Alstott fumbles, Mike knows he has to take care of the ball, even if we're friends. I really don't like to become friends with a lot of the present-day players. I'm not out with them that much. If I see them, I respect them and say, "Hi," but I'm not going to let that sway my opinion.
With the Super Bowl in Tampa this February, can the Bucs be the first host team to play in a Super Bowl?
Anything's possible. If you had told me last season the Giants would win the Super Bowl, I would've said, with Eli Manning at quarterback? How? So you never know …