Jill Hobbs says she has enough stories about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to fill a book. That's fitting, because you can't tell the story of the NFL's 27th franchise without her.
Hobbs, who currently serves as the Buccaneers' Player Benefits & Alumni Programs Manager, first came to work for the team in a temporary position in the summer of 1976, a few months before the franchise would play its first game ever. The following spring, on April 15, 1977, Hobbs accepted a full-time position on the Buccaneers' staff…and that means that, remarkably, this Sunday marks her 35th year with the team.
On Friday, Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer, accompanied by Glazer Family Foundation Co-President Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, marked Hobbs' incredible tenure as a member of the Buccaneers family with an equally impressive – and very moving – gesture.
Calling the team's entire staff to a sudden meeting in the auditorium at One Buccaneer Place, Bryan Glazer took the stage and, in a grave voice, spoke of impending breaking news that would surprise long-time team employees such as Hobbs. It was, in fact, just a set-up to surprise Hobbs on her 35th anniversary. After briefly feigning surprise at news of that anniversary, Glazer stepped backstage and emerged with a framed #35 Buccaneers jersey bearing the name "Hobbs."
As the staff provided a standing ovation, Hobbs came up to the stage to accept the gift, only to be told by Glazer that such an occasion merited something a little bit larger. Or a lot larger, as it turned out. As Hobbs clutched her framed jersey, Glazer again went backstage and emerged with a second gift: A check made out to Hobbs for $35,000.
Overcome by emotion, Hobbs eventually collected herself and, urged by Glazer, related a few of those stories that could make a very entertaining book. She ended with a heartfelt message to her fellow staff members: "Never sell yourself short, personally or professionally."
That is the motto Hobbs has lived by during her three-and-a-half decades in a profession that generally sees a lot of turnover. This approach has allowed her to remain valued and appreciated by nine head coaches, a half-dozen general managers (or the equivalent) and especially team ownership. Malcolm Glazer and the Glazer family purchased the Buccaneers in 1995, almost exactly at the midway point of Hobbs' tenure, and have always made it a point to show their gratitude for her contributions to the team. On Hobbs' 20th anniversary with the team she was presented with a large flat-screen TV by ownership.
At that time, Hobbs was serving as the executive assistant to the general manager, the position she has held the longest during her 35 years. In that capacity, Hobbs was involved in important team business on a daily basis, frequently being the point person in communicating player personnel moves with the league. During her time with the team, Hobbs has seen more than 900 players come and go, and that includes only those who made the regular-season roster at some point. Many hundreds more were with the team at some point during the offseason and training camp.
Of course, that perspective and the length of her tenure have made Hobbs a perfect fit for her current position, in which she communicates regularly with many of those former players. The Buccaneers have expanded their efforts to reconnect with the players and people of the franchise's past over the last decade, including a recent series of Throwback Games and the creation of the Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. Hobbs has been – and remains – central to those efforts.
Through the years, Hobbs has worked in a wide variety of capacities for the Buccaneers, spending time in such departments as marketing and personnel. Her very first position, that temporary one in the summer of '76, was with the ticket office. She remembers using a manual cash register to process season ticket purchases.
Times have changed, of course, and Hobbs has seen the evolution of the team and the NFL first-hand. She remembers when the Buccaneers purchased their first computer. Just last year, she witnessed Tampa Bay become one of the first professional sports teams to give players iPads to use as playbooks.
Hobbs was actually still finishing up her degree at Middle Georgia Junior College when she first went to work for the Buccaneers. She got that initial opportunity in 1976 while home from school and making a lunch-time visit to her mother, who was working a temporary job at One Buccaneer Place. Hobbs was offered her own temporary position at that time and, after completing her work at Middle Georgia, she returned the following spring to take on a full-time role.
And she has been a Buccaneer ever since. She witnessed the team's amazing rise to the NFC Championship Game in 1979, in just its fourth year of existence. She endured 14 straight losing seasons before a new era of success was ushered in by the Glazer Family. She was there when, in its 27th season, the franchise finally lofted the Lombardi Trophy as winners of Super Bowl XXXVII. She has seen players win awards and put their names in the record books, and then she has helped many of those same players in their lives after football. She heard John McKay drop the witticisms that have since become legendary, she saw Lee Roy Selmon become the first Buccaneer inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and she was there for every day of such incredible Buccaneer careers as those belonging to Derrick Brooks, Ricky Bell and Jimmie Giles.
Jill Hobbs has stories alright. Lots of them. And after Friday, she has another one, one she will not soon forget. The Glazer Family made sure of that.