When the Bucs drafted receiver Kenny Bell out of Nebraska in the fifth round in May, general manager Jason Licht joked that he'd done so not only on the strong endorsement of his scouting department, but also from his father Ron, a Nebraska season-ticket holder since 1962.
This summer, while back in Lincoln at a teammate's charity golf tournament, Bell got a chance to thank the elder Licht, giving him a No. 80 Cornhuskers jersey, which he autographed for him. Bell donated a second autographed jersey for the GM's sister, Patti Abbott, for a fund-raiser for her daughter's high school volleyball team. She laughed when the rookie kept calling her brother "Mr. Licht," explaining that the only real Mr. Licht was her father, not her brother.
"To the Real Mr. Licht!" reads the inscription on the autographed red jersey, which Licht's niece Sara posted on Twitter.com this week.
Ron Licht, 76, has sat in the same seats for Nebraska home games for 53 seasons, so he can attest to how rare it is to find a great Nebraska receiver -- Bell has the career record for catches and receiving yards at a program usually more well-known for its running backs.
"Nice kid, well-liked by everyone, never any off-field problems at all, very good character," Ron Licht said by phone Thursday. "And he made outstanding plays all year long. Made catches when you didn't imagine that he could, and we fell in love with him. The Buccaneers are rich in receivers, so I know he's going to have to work hard to get a roster spot. But from what I know about him, I know he'll work hard to get that. I've just been impressed by him as a person, all these years."
Licht, who will attend the Bucs' home opener against the Titans with his wife Karen, was thrilled to get a text from his son on draft day, finding out the Bucs' scouting department thought as highly of Bell as he did. Between Bell, linebacker Lavonte David and the GM -- who played at Nebraska as a walk-on guard, earning a letter in 1991 -- there's a strong cluster of Bucs fans in Lincoln, as his father is reminded whenever he proudly wears a Bucs cap or T-shirt around town.
"It's amazing how many people come up to you that are now following the Bucs that never did," he said. "The Nebraska connection has been good for the Bucs up here."