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99 Reasons to Retire #99

Posted Nov 6, 2013

To honor the retirement of Warren Sapp's jersey number during next Monday night's Ring of Honor ceremony, we count down 99 reasons no Buc will ever wear those digits again

On Nov. 11, during halftime of their Monday Night Football game against the Miami Dolphins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will induct Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp into their Ring of Honor and retire Sapp's #99 jersey.

Both are extremely prestigious honors for anyone who has ever worn a Buccaneer uniform, but the latter is actually slightly more exclusive. While Sapp will join Lee Roy Selmon, John McKay, Jimmie Giles and Paul Gruber as the first five members of the Ring, he and Selmon will be the only two players in franchise history with a retired number.

So, why should no one ever wear #99 for the Buccaneers again. What makes Sapp deserving of this nearly singular honor? We could give you one reason, or five, but in deference to that now-retired jersey, we'll do much, much better than that. Presenting…

99 Reasons to Retire #99

99. Because Sapp was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1999. Given that no Buccaneer has won a league MVP award yet, this equals the same awards won by Selmon (1979) and Derrick Brooks (2002) as the top individual honors in franchise history.
98. Because he set the team's single-season record with 16.5 sacks in 2000, a remarkable feat for any player, let alone a defensive tackle.
97. Because those 16.5 sacks represent the third-highest total ever by a defensive tackle in NFL history.
-- Reason #98
96. Because he sat in a San Diego hotel room with Brooks and John Lynch in 1996 and said, "No more," when ESPN's Chris Berman called his team, "The Yucks."
95. Because he's the first first-year-eligible Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in franchise history. (Selmon, an equally sublime player, was elected in his sixth year of eligibility, though his first year as a finalist.)
94. Because he ranks second to John Randle in NFL history in sacks for a defensive tackle, with 96.5.
93. Because he even played offense in 2003 and caught four passes for 39 yards and two touchdowns.
92. And, oh yeah, because he did this after catching one of those TD passes.
91. Because Head Coach Jon Gruden said after that TD catch: "It's just added to the legacy of Warren Sapp. It's just one more thing he's done in this league as a player."
90. Because he's Florida's own when it comes to football – raised in Apopka, played college ball at Miami and spent nine of his 13 NFL seasons with the Buccaneers.
89. Because, as Buccaneers Co-Chairman Joel Glazer once put it, "Warren was the complete package - leadership, dominating play and an on-field attitude that was contagious."
88. Because, thanks in part to Sapp and a relentless rush from a four-man line that barely needed help from the blitz, the Buccaneers held opposing quarterbacks, to an incredibly low passer rating of 48.4 in 2002.
87. Because he had not one, not two, not three sacks in just his second NFL playoff game, a Divisional-round contest at Green Bay on Dec. 4, 1998.
86. Because the man he dropped three times in that game was Packers great Brett Favre, kicking off one of the best and most mutually-respectful player rivalries of a generation.
85. Because he is still the only player in team history with three sacks in a single playoff game.
84. Because he sacked Favre 11 times.
83. Because he proved the Bucs' defense could shut down the "Greatest Show on Turf" during the 1999 playoffs.
82. Because, in that '99 NFC Championship Game in St. Louis, and in the entire season leading up to it, he helped the Bucs come within minutes of their first Super Bowl despite an offense that ranked 28th in the NFL.
81. Because, a natural in the spotlight, he had 10 sacks in 13 career Monday Night Football games.
80. Because he led the charge in Super Bowl XXXVII, when for the first time in Super Bowl history the NFL's number-one defense faced the number-one offense, and the defense prevailed.
79. Because, after that 48-21 win over the Raiders and their top-ranked offense, he said, " We had an inferno going and once we dig that hole, we drag you in and pour dirt on you."
78. Because at least one of his opponents in that Super Bowl knew it was coming. Said Frank Middleton, former Buccaneer teammate of Sapp's and a starting offensive guard for that 2002 Raiders team: "Sapp is the last of the great D-linemen. They don't make them like Sapp anymore. This should be his best opportunity to show what he's got."
77. Because he was an Associated Press first-team All-Pro selection on four occasions and a second-team selection on a fifth.
76. Because he heard the word, 'Doom,' and knew what to do. During the Bucs' incredible defensive touchdown barrage of 2002, in a game at Atlanta, Sapp intercepted a deflected pass in the Falcons' backfield and, while in the clutches of an Atlanta offensive lineman, heard Brooks yell that code word. That was all Sapp needed to hear to impulsively toss the football back a couple yards to his teammate, who rumbled 15 yards for a touchdown.
75. Because he had double-digit sack totals in four seasons, second in NFL history among defensive tackles to fellow Hall-of-Famer John Randle.
74. Because he first broke double digits in sacks in 1997, with his 10.5 QB takedowns powering the Bucs to their first winning season and playoff berth in 15 years.
73. Because he set the tone for the Buccaneers' entire 1997 breakout season by stifling QB Steve Young and WR Jerry Rice in a 13-6 opening-day victory over San Francisco.
72. Because he had 2.5 sacks in that game, which kicked off a five-game winning streak and ended up with the Buccaneers on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
71. Because he was a punter and a placekicker for his high school team, setting the school record for longest field goal, and was a tight end when he first got to the University of Miami.
70. Because he was at the heart of a Tampa Bay defense that remarkably recorded seven straight top-10 finishes in the NFL rankings (six of which were also top five) from 1997-2003.
69. Because only fellow Hall-of-Famer Lee Roy Selmon had more sacks as a Buccaneer (78.5) than Sapp's 77.0.
68. Because he had nine sacks in just his second NFL season, 1996, for a team whose sack leader the year before had five.
67. Because, from 1996-2000, he averaged more than 11 sacks per season, a remarkable run for a defensive tackle.
-- Reason #55
66. Because the Pro Football Hall of Fame calls him, "one of the most dominating defensive tackles in NFL history."
65. Because Tony Dungy, Sapp's head coach from 1996-2011, said this about him: "I think you have to remember Warren Sapp for the big games. That's when he was at his best. Playoff games. Games that you had to have. He was going to show up and play well. And that's what you wanted, a guy who was going to be at his best in the big games.
64. Because, as Dungy also said: "What he could do with his quick feet, his hand-eye coordination, his speed…he was amazing."
63. Because those quick feet nearly won him "Dancing with the Stars," for goodness sake.
62. Because he once said, "Just give me 17 points and we'll make it stick," and he meant it.
61. Because he forced 20 fumbles during his career, and even intercepted four passes.
60. Because he had nearly the same number of passes caught (four) as passes defensed (three) in 2003.
59. Because had 1.5 sacks in the Bucs' three postseason games on the way to their Lombardi Trophy in 2002, including one in the Super Bowl that forced a Rich Gannon fumble.
58. Because he sacked 48 different quarterbacks during his career.
57. Because his approach was, "Stop the run on the way to the quarterback."
56. Because he still stopped the run plenty of times that way, with a whopping 524 tackles in nine seasons as a Buccaneer.
55. Because he got to kiss the Lombardi Trophy.
54. Because that total of 55 sacks has been topped by only four teams since.
53. Because he once caught Minnesota Vikings RB Robert Smith, a track-and-field athlete at Ohio State who once ran a 10.24 100-yard dash, from behind on a breakaway run.
52. Because he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month once each in 1997 and 1998.
51. Because New England Head Coach Bill Belichick remembers that great Buccaneer defense this way, as told to The Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman: "The combination of Sapp and Brooks was absolutely devastating. It was like facing Joe Greene and Jack Lambert, when the Steelers were dominant. But Sapp was the guy you had better take care of first. He was closer to the football and if you didn't handle Warren Sapp, all the rest didn't matter."
50. Because we said this when it was announced that Sapp would be the next inductee into the Ring of Honor: "Warren Sapp was always a bit larger than life during his nine years as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Big plays, big personality, huge impact. He wore the highest uniform number a player can wear and took his team to the NFL's highest peak. Raymond James Stadium rocked when #99 was in full motor."
49. Because, with Derrick Brooks and John Lynch, he formed, as he called it, "the front, the back and the middle," of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history.
-- Reason #49
48. Because, at his NFL Scouting Combine, he ran a 4.69 40-yard dash.
47. Because he was the team leader on the 2000 team that set a franchise single-season record with 55 sacks.
46. Because sometimes pylons need kickin' before the game begins.
45. Because he went to seven Pro Bowls as a Buccaneer, every single one from 1997-2003.
44. Because only Derrick Brooks went to more Pro Bowls (11) as a Buccaneer.
43. Because, according to the Weighted Career Approximate Value method of evaluation on ProFootballReference.com, Sapp is one of the top 50 players in the NFL of the last 63 years.
42. Because he broke up 30 passes during his NFL career.
41. Because he once wrestled a crocodile.
40. Because he could tell whether a play was going to be a run or a pass by looking at the knuckles of the opposing offensive linemen.
39. Because, during his career, he had 13.5 regular-season sacks inside his own red zone, the types of plays that can destroy a scoring opportunity.
38. Because he chose #99 as a tribute to Jerome Brown, a fellow former Miami Hurricane.
37. Because he decided that jersey number was also his theme: "99 problems I'm providing your offense on Sunday afternoon."
36. Because he helped cement the legacy of the Bucs' incredible defense of the 1990s and 2000s by winning a Super Bowl. Said Sapp: "When you win a championship, it solidifies everything. People never talk about the Purple People Eaters or the Fearsome Foursome in the same light as the Steel Curtain or the Doomsday Defense of the Cowboys. Right now we're in the same class. We won a championship, and we play lights-out defense."
-- Reason #17
35. Because he was a consensus All-Rookie pick in 1995, led by the Pro Football Writers of America list.
34. Because NFL scouts are always looking for "the next Warren Sapp" in the draft.
33. Because, once during his rookie season, he intercepted a shovel pass – a SHOVEL PASS in the backfield against Atlanta and returned it five yards for a touchdown.
32. Because he walked the walk before he talked the talk. As he said before a game in 2002: “I think you all misunderstand my game. My game isn’t about talk, my game is about making plays. After I make the play, then I talk. I don’t get this. You guys act like I’m woofing and yelling to make plays. You don’t talk to make plays. You make plays and then you enjoy it.”
31. Because, in addition to contributing 7.5 sacks during the 2002 Super Bowl year, he also was responsible for two of the team's 31 interceptions that season.
30. Because he didn't just pick his helmet up off the ground at the end of warmups, he flipped it up to his hands with his foot.
29. Because he had 16 forced fumbles as a Buccaneer, tied with Ronde Barber for third-most in team history.
28. Because he had at least one sack against 28 of the 32 teams in the NFL, and at least two sacks against 22 of them.
27. Because when Tony Dungy got to town in 1996 he called Sapp into his office and said, "We're going to find the players that fit our system and we're going to win with it. And I'm asking you to lead."
26. Because when Jon Gruden got to town in 2002 and was asked if he wanted to keep Sapp around, Gruden said, "The only way we would trade him is if somebody forked up a small continent."
25. Because he unjustly went 12th overall in the 1995 draft…and is the first player in that year's first round to make it to the Hall of Fame, though teammate Derrick Brooks (28th overall) could follow him soon. Sapp and RB Curtis Martin (a third-round pick) are the only two members of the 1995 draft class in the Hall so far.
24. Because he had 44 sacks in front of the home crowds at Tampa/Houlihan's and Raymond James Stadiums.
23. Because only five of his 77 sacks as a Buccaneer came on plays where the team blitzed.
22. Because he once made a series of diving plays in the infield in a Buccaneers charity softball game, showing once again how ridiculously athletic he could be at 300 pounds.
21. Because we predicted on Buccaneers.com, way back in 2001, that Warren Sapp might be the first player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a bronze bust featuring braids.
20. Because Sapp said, back in that interview: "I want to be considered one of the best players who ever played this game when I’m done. The money, the attention, the fame, the big contract, those are not the things that drive me. Winning and being the best defensive tackle that ever played this game - that’s what drives me."
-- Reason #6
19. Because Washington Redskins offensive tackle Tre' Johnson said: “He keeps coming and coming, and coming. Have you seen those specials on TV? Where they show 2,000 mice running through fields together, eating up cows and pigs, just devouring them? That’s Tampa Bay’s defense. And Warren is the lead mouse.”
18. Because, when he goes back to Canton next year with the rest of the NFL's Hall of Famers, he'll be alphabetically seated between Deion Sanders and Gale Sayers. Wow.
17. Because in three regular-season games at Veterans Stadium, the building the Buccaneers shut down in the NFC Championship Game on their way to Super Bowl XXXVII, he had 4.5 sacks.
16. Because he believed that to be a great defensive lineman you had to have two things: "A loose screw and a motor from hell." And he was a great defensive lineman.
15. Because, after recording "only" seven sacks in 1998, he trained vigorously to lose 40 pounds before the 1999 season and then exploded for consecutive seasons of 12.5 and 16.5 sacks.
14. Because the Cover Two is now called the Tampa Two.
13. Because he redefined the three-technique defensive tackle position, the main reason beyond his numbers that he put on a gold jacket in Canton this past August.
12. Because, in the 2002 NFC Championship Game, with the Buccaneers trailing 7-3, he came in to play fullback near the goal line and provided the sealing block that led Mike Alstott into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. The Bucs would never trail in that game again.
11. Because this is the list of players in NFL history who went to seven straight Pro Bowls, won an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and won a Super Bowl: Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Greene and Jack Ham.
10. Because all of those players are in the Hall of Fame except Brooks, who will be in his first year of eligibility in 2014.
9. Because his third NFL head coach, Jon Gruden, described him thusly: "He's the most dominating inside presence I've been around: tremendous athletic ability, tenacity, discipline and football intelligence every single snap."
8. Because, during his tenure as a Buccaneer, the team set an incredible NFL record by recording at least one sack in 69 consecutive games.
7. Because, during that same stretch, the Buccaneers' defense also had at least one sack and at least one turnover in 50 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the NFL since 1963.
6. Because there's more to him than the aggressive, larger-than-life persona. As former teammate Dwight Smith said, "When people think of Warren Sapp, they think of this big, tough guy. But I knew him and I know his family and his mom and I know him to be a softie. He loves his family and he loves his kids. We call him Bear because he's a big [teddy] bear."
5. Because he played the game in order to retire his mother.
4. Because, as he said during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, "I stand before you today, one humble, proud country boy from Plymouth, Florida. That's right. The dirt. That dirt was something rough, but it sure turned into something special."
3. Because he is a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for both the 1990s and the 2000s.
2. Because he is one of only 13 position players ever to be named to two different all-decade teams, and because…

There will never be another 1 like Warren Sapp.