TAMPA — He wasn't Jerry Jones. He wasn't Robert Kraft,
He wasn't that kind of NFL owner. In some ways, that was a good thing.
But the late Malcolm Glazer helped make the Bucs into Super Bowl champions. He was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor at halftime of Thursday night's game against the Patriots. And that reminded me of a story from another night 14 years ago.
The Bucs had defeated the Eagles for the NFC championship. NFL great Willie Davis, on national television, said he was happy to present the George S. Halas Trophy to … Marcus Glazer.
Malcolm Glazer smiled and went with it.
A week later, he was holding the Lombardi Trophy.
He never liked being Malcolm in the middle. He preferred the background. He stayed there, made lots money, took care of his family and his world. Everyone thought he was nuts when he rolled out of obscurity to purchase the loser Bucs in 1995 for a then NFL-record $192 million. Forbes says the franchise is now worth five times that. And it won a Super Bowl. And Malcolm Glazer was the owner.
At a Ring of Honor news conference in August, Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer spoke of his father's common touch when he chatted with Bucs players, coaches and employees.
"But not about football — about who they were, where they came from and where they wanted to go," Bryan Glazer said.
"He talked about how if you work hard, you could accomplish anything you wanted to in life. That came from a man who started with nothing, so he knew what he was talking about."
Malcolm Glazer hired Tony Dungy, the best move in franchise history. He gambled when he fired Dungy and hired Jon Gruden away from Oakland owner Al Davis. Of course, this is after Malcolm made a brief excursion to the Land of Bill Parcells. That made two Bucs owners jilted at the altar, for those keeping score.
Anyway, the Bucs and Raiders met in the Super Bowl. It seemed like a mismatch. Davis, the renegade, the outlandish one, who had cleaned Malcolm's clock in the Gruden deal, or so we thought. Davis in his silk sweat suits and slick hair. Malcolm looked like a farmer compared with Davis. What a mismatch.
The game was no contest.
Malcolm Glazer wasn't to be underestimated. Nor was he soft. He would have moved this franchise if the community hadn't built him a stadium. During the battle over the stadium lease, Glazer sat with city and county leaders, staring at a midnight deadline. At 11:01 p.m., Glazer turned to Tampa Mayor Dick Greco.
"You have 59 minutes," Glazer said.
In that sense, this community saved this franchise when it built the stadium. But Glazer did his part. He loosened his wallet and helped build a champion. And he and his sons reached out in the community, unlike Glazer's predecessor, Hugh Culverhouse.
Bryan Glazer tells a story.
His father had just bought the team and was driving from Tampa back to his home in West Palm Beach. Malcolm and his wife stopped in Lakeland to eat. A fan recognized Glazer and thanked him for buying the team. Malcolm was so happy, he wanted to give the fan the Bucs polo shirt he was wearing!
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They walked to Malcolm's car, Malcolm gave the fan his shirt, changed into a new one and shut the trunk — locking his keys inside. The police had to come help him.
"But you can truly say my father gave the shirt off his back," Bryan Glazer said.
Okay, maybe he was a little soft.
Here's to Malcolm. And Marcus. The both of them.
Contact Martin Fennelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 731-8029