Bucs celebrate with franchise transformer Sapp

The Jim Thorps statue stands in the newly redesigned interior rotunda of the Pro Football Hall of Fame prior to the Class of 2013 Enshrinement Ceremony on Saturday at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
The Jim Thorps statue stands in the newly redesigned interior rotunda of the Pro Football Hall of Fame prior to the Class of 2013 Enshrinement Ceremony on Saturday at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
Published Aug. 4, 2013

CANTON, Ohio — Tony Dungy had just finished touring the Pro Football Hall of Fame with his young son Justin, taking in the collection of heroes and memorable moments.

When he emerged and the conversation turned to one of the newest Hall of Famers — Warren Sapp — the former Bucs coach had an even better perspective on what the Tampa Bay great truly achieved.

Put simply, Sapp dominated the game, a rare feat for a man who played defensive tackle, a nonglamorous position that Sapp revolutionized.

That, Dungy said, was "very rare. Just walking through here, you see Merlin Olsen and Joe Greene. There's just a few who could do it from the interior. And he was one of them."

Sapp was joined by family members, former coaches and teammates for a ceremony commemorating his life's work. Each one, in both small and large ways, played a role in helping Sapp achieve that greatness. But Saturday belonged to Sapp, and those associated with the Bucs were most happy for him.

"To be part of it as his head coach, and to see the progression, it's very rewarding," Dungy said. "It's what it's all about."

The list of attendees was a who's who of the franchise. Jon Gruden. Derrick Brooks. Ronde Barber. Shelton Quarles. Members of the Glazer family. Dexter Jackson, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVII.

All were in Canton for Sapp's enshrinement, enjoying the ride along with him.

For ownership, the election of Sapp to the Hall is an example of things coming full circle. Shortly after purchasing the team, owner Malcolm Glazer and his sons traveled to Canton to celebrate defensive end Lee Roy Selmon's induction into the Hall in 1995.

Little did they know then that the player who had just become the first draft pick in their stint with the team, Sapp, would go on to the Hall, too.

"Sitting there (Friday) night seeing him get his jacket, just a wave of emotion goes through you because you remember that day when we took him," co-chairman Joel Glazer said. "He was our first pick, and then to see him here, with the greats of the game, it's unbelievable.

"When you look back, I'm just so appreciative that we had a chance to see someone like that play week in and week out. When it's going on, you take it a little for granted."

With the passing of time, it has become easier to see Sapp's uniqueness, others said.

"At times, he could just take over a game, just dominate," general manager Mark Dominik said. "It's extremely unique (for a defensive tackle). That's why he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. When you step back and think that there's 267 guys in here, and he's one of them, it's amazing."

Take it from those who played both with and against Sapp, such as former Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson, who also attended.

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"I played against him when I was in Minnesota and Washington, so if you can't beat them, sometimes you want to join them," he said. "He hit me a few times, hard. But I really had great respect for him."

There was so much to the man — the personality, the performance — making Sapp truly a package deal.

"It was not only his play on the field, but the way he did it," Joel Glazer said. "He had an attitude. He had swagger. He had everything that helped transform the franchise, which is what we were looking to accomplish. He was not only a great player, but he danced, he entertained on the field for the fans. He brought it all together."