The announcement that Warren Sapp would be the next person inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor was met with applause and nods of agreement at a Thursday press conference, but no real surprise. Since Sapp was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2013 in February, it has seemed like a foregone conclusion that his name would be the next to join those of Lee Roy Selmon, John McKay, Jimmie Giles and Paul Gruber on the Raymond James Stadium façade. As Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer, who introduced the newest honoree on Thursday, put it, "There really was no other choice."
But Glazer had another announcement to make, one that was a surprise to everyone else in the team auditorium at One Buccaneer Place, including Warren Sapp himself. And it was big.
"On November 11 of this year, under the lights of Monday Night Football," said Glazer, "not only will we be putting Warren Sapp's name in the Ring of Honor, but we will also be telling the world that no one else will ever wear #99 for this team again."
The Glazer family's decision to retire jersey #99 was made in secrecy and shared with no one until midway through Thursday's press conference. It was a thrilling announcement for Sapp, who greeted the news with a wide smile, a hug for Bryan Glazer and a brief battle to hold back tears. Sapp, whose year just keeps getting better, knew that the retired number is one of the most exclusive honors the franchise has ever bestowed on a player.
In fact, only two numbers have been retired in the team's four-decade history, and the players on the list match those who have been selected for the Hall of Fame: Sapp, 99, and Lee Roy Selmon, 63.
Sapp's number is the first one retired by the team since the Glazer family purchased the Buccaneers in 1995, and that's a rather fitting bit of symmetry. As Bryan Glazer pointed out during the press conference, there is a special link between his family and Warren Sapp, who was the very first player the team drafted under the Glazers' watch. In the decade that followed, Sapp did both the Buccaneers and his own jersey number proud with his intense effort and will to win.
"During his spectacular career, Warren never once gave less than his all," said Glazer. "His days on the field were headlined by incredible passion, overwhelming talent and, of course, his larger-than-life personality."
As is the case with the three former players who were inducted into the Ring of Honor, Sapp will see both his last name and his jersey number displayed on the stadium façade in three-feet-high red-and-white letters. Tampa Bay fans will be able to enjoy that growing Ring of Honor display at every home game, but never again will they see jersey #99 in action for the Buccaneers on the football field. That number belongs to Warren Sapp.