Advertisement
  1. Archive

BOOMING ECHO

Some say they still can hear his voice thundering through the halls of One Buc Place, and what else should one expect? Defensive tackle Warren Sapp roamed the confines of the team's outdated facility in much the same way a certain count roamed his castle on a cold mountaintop in Transylvania.

For nine seasons, Sapp's mere presence evoked feelings of intrigue, mystery, fear, intimidation, awe and dislike. He became the face of the franchise, a driving force in the team's rise from laughingstock to Super Bowl champions.

"Bigger than football, he helped define what the Buc way was," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "(Former) Coach (Tony) Dungy preached that we had to establish an identity when he got here. What's the Buc way of doing things?

"Bigger than what he did for the franchise, he helped establish that. He helped establish a player at his position, in this defense, that no matter who's running it, there's a level of expectation."

Along the way, Sapp has left innumerable impressions on virtually everyone who crossed his path. Now, after signing a seven-year, $36.6-million contract with the Raiders this offseason, Sapp will face his old team in Oakland on Sunday night. For so many in a Bucs uniform, it will add to a long list of lasting memories.

Asked to share their favorite Sapp memories, here is a sampling of what former teammates and coaches had to say: Quarterback Chris Simms, a rare rookie who gained acceptance last season, but not at first:

"I'll never, ever in my life forget the first time I ever met him. I had just been drafted a week earlier. I met with coach Gruden and he said, "Make sure you get around and introduce yourself to all the veterans.' So, about five minutes later I walk into the locker room and I see Warren Sapp right there. I say, "Oh, this is the greatest thing ever. Let me go say hi to the man on the team.' I stick out my hand. He goes, "Get the f--- away from me. Don't even talk to me until you win the big game. And wipe that stupid-a-- Longhorn off your leg.'

"So, those are my first words ever from Warren Sapp. I knew right away he must do it a lot because guys were laughing as I was walking away, "Oh, 99 he's crazy.' Later that year when we went to camp in Orlando I had to carry all his stuff through the locker room, all his Jordan cleats, his bags. I worked hard. I kept my mouth shut. I played around with him a little bit and didn't let him talk back to me all the time. I think he respected that about me, that I stopped taking it.

"I never met anybody like him in my life, and never will. People don't realize. They always see the interviews, but he's an extremely smart man, way smarter than people know about. He says whatever's on his mind, so sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, but if you're friends with him, it's good. His approach to the game was as serious as anyone I've ever seen. He watched out for everybody because it was his team."

Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who coached Sapp the past eight seasons, during which time Sapp averaged 9.3 sacks:

"To me, I always remember him in that breakout year in 1997, the San Francisco 49er game, the opener. It says it all about him when he burst onto the scene and dominated the game from pass rush to run defense to playing a reverse to containing the quarterback. And he built from that. That game was a defining moment in his career and for this franchise. What he did that day was dominating. He did it all. It was impressive. It was that moment that he surged onto the field in the NFL and just made an unbelievable statement. It was awesome to see. It was a powerful game. It was a moment that lasted 60 minutes."

Linebacker Shelton Quarles:

"I know the guys will get on me for this, but I remember him dancing naked in the shower. It wasn't a pretty sight. He used to do it all the time, but the first time I saw it, I was like, "Man, that's scary!' It was a Thursday after practice and he started acting crazy in the locker room, all excited that the day was over and the long weekend was about to start and he started getting loose in there. I mean, he only did it a few times, but one time was one time too many."

Defensive tackle Anthony McFarland:

"When I think of Warren, I think of a particular moment of a game. I wasn't even here, I just saw it on tape, on TV. But I remember watching a game in 1996 or 1997 against Green Bay. No. 99 made some moves on the right guard. He lost his helmet. And even with his helmet off, he turned the corner and chased after Brett Favre. I don't know if he got him, but it was a great display of determination and relentlessness. He didn't let anything stop him. That's what I think about when I think of Warren."

Cornerback Ronde Barber:

"My best memory is my first one, because I will never forget it. It was my rookie minicamp, and I didn't know any better. I didn't know the guy. I knew who he was, but I didn't know anything about him. He was unapproachable, without a doubt. Well, I was walking by his locker and I had a cup of water and I spilled it on him and all over his locker. In the locker. I was thinking, "Oh my God, what did I just do?' He said, "Rook, in training camp, I'm going to get your a--!' That was frightening. I didn't forget and I thought about it all through training camp. He never did anything, but it took me two years before I said two words to him again."

Center John Wade:

"When I came here from Jacksonville, I had some idea about what kind of guy he was. But I quickly found out that he was really motivated. The way he came to work, the way he worked when here.

"On the field, his knowledge of the opponent was always amazing. I don't know if people outside the game are aware of this, but you can give him a name, any name, a starter or someone he's never played against, and he knows everything about him. He can tell you his moves, his tendencies, everything that he likes. He probably even knows his girlfriend's name.

"The guy will know your entire background, date of birth, history, where you went to school, your likes and dislikes. He never played against me and it surprised me how much he knew about me. I don't think people understand how much he prepared.

"But, he was loud. He's always going. I'm not there, but I'm pretty sure when he wakes up in the morning his switch is flipped. I'm sure he's that way when he wakes up and is talking to his wife and kids. He's always on the go. Whether it's 5 a.m. or 9 p.m., he's always talking.

"I remember when I first got here, I asked: "Man, is he always this talkative?' They told me, "Yup! He doesn't shut up!' He doesn't need coffee I've seen some people close to him, but I don't think I have ever seen someone like Warren. He's one of a kind, that's for sure."

Quarterback Brad Johnson:

"I absolutely loved playing with him. We kind of went at each other when I was at Minnesota and Washington. He hit me with a tremendous shot in the ribs in the fourth quarter of a game we played Tampa in Washington. He had me doubled over in pain and I just kind of squinted at him. I can still pinpoint where he hit me.

"He played with a lot of intensity. He will go down as one of the all-time greats. The only time he ever shut up was in the offensive huddle. I thought two of the four catches he made were pretty impressive, especially the ones he made against New Orleans and Carolina.

"He never said much about the touchdown he caught in Atlanta, but he did give me a T-shirt, the one that said from QB Killa to TD Thrilla. I love it and still wear it to bed at night with pride.

"He always called me Bull. I think it's because he saw the glaze in my eyes after I was hurt when he hit me. He definitely was a presence in that locker room, but I would just tune him out. It was always on. Some people he irritated. I never had any problems with him. I think it was out of respect for how much he loved the game. He was a lot of show. A lot of show. But that was just part of the deal."

Linebacker Jeff Gooch:

"For me, it's one of those perception versus reality things. We were out at a boxing card, here in Tampa some years ago. We're sitting there in a little roped off area at ringside. He's sitting next to me with a bunch of other teammates, like Brooks, (Shaun) King.

"Now, there's this lady all the way over on another side of the ring. Now, she's trying to get ringside. We thought she wanted an autograph, no biggie. The lady kept bugging the security guy and was saying "Sapp!, Sapp!' Finally, he told the security guy to let her in to get an autograph. Well, she comes over, after walking through the whole aisle, and just starts cussing him out, "You s---. You're a terrible player! You're this, you're that.'

"She starts going off on him in front of everyone. I was in shock. I couldn't believe what she was saying to him. Now, given what Warren was like, I was expecting him to go off on her. I mean, she was right in his face. He just sat there. He let her finish then turned to her and said, "I understand you have your own opinion. Have a nice night.' And he then went back to reading his program.

"That right there made me have a new respect for Sapp. I thought he would go nuts because that's what everyone says he does. But he didn't. It was an insight into his life for me. I understood a lot about him that night. From that point, I had a profound respect for Sapp because he had to deal with that stuff daily. He was trying to sign an autograph for her, got a pen, and she just started cussing him out."

Brooks, drafted in the first round with Sapp in 1995, is among Sapp's favorite people:

"For me, there are three moments, and they kind of define our relationship. The first one was many years ago and we were sitting in a San Diego hotel and heard us called the Yucs. Warren and I were sitting in the room watching TV and they said we were not the Bucs but the Yucs. He just gave me a look and I gave him a look and we said, "Enough is enough.' We pledged that moment to get this turned around and we did. In some ways, that look we shared was like the birth of Buc ball.

"Secondly, I remember when he was getting married in Hawaii and we spent one day driving around the island looking for various things and we kept getting lost. We got lost looking for a tuxedo, the marriage license office, everything. At one point, when I saw we were up in the clouds, I told him: "Don't look down, but I think we need to turn around. We're in the clouds. We're lost again.'

"The third moment I remember most was when he won the defensive player of the year award in 1999. As soon as he found out, he called me and said, "It should have been your award. You deserve a piece of this.' I said, "No, you deserved it.' But he wouldn't let it go. He insisted. For him to acknowledge me on a day when he was named the best defensive player in the league meant a lot to me and said something about what kind of teammate he was. I'll never forget that day."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement