Teammates past and present fondly remember their shared playing days with FB Mike Alstott
Not every Mike Alstott fan at a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game was seated in the stands. They may not have blown train whistles or worn #40 jerseys, but Alstott's teammates during his 11 seasons of play were often astounded by his play, too. Turns out it's just as exciting to watch one of Alstott's signature runs unfold at field level.
Many of Alstott's current and former teammates attended the Thursday press conference at which he announced his retirement. Even those that couldn't be there vividly remembered their playing days together. Below is what some of those teammates, as well as several others with whom he came in contact, had to say about Mike Alstott and his career:
Cornerback Ronde Barber: "I have such mixed feelings for Mike because on the one hand his second neck injury says without question that it is time for the next chapter in his life. But I know he loves football and the game and its fans really love him back. He'll be missed as much he misses us... Let's face it, there are few players that played the game the way he did. And there will never be another 40 around here!"
ESPN Personality Chris Berman: "Mike Alstott was a throwback warrior disguised as a modern day player. His passion for football and his sheer joy of just playing the game will long be remembered. There is no question that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were truly in 'Good Hands with' Alstott."
Linebacker Derrick Brooks: "First of all, I want to congratulate Mike on the wonderful career as a football player, being his teammate and also a fan of his. He truly embodied the Buccaneer way of doing things on and off the field. He was a lead-by-example type of leader and always gained respect from his peers on our team as well as around the NFL. I'm proud of the fact that not only are we friends, but we're business partners. I look forward to us having even more success together away from football. Finally, I think Mike has made the most important impact of all being as he cemented his legacy in our community. His foundation as well as private matters, he helped turn Tampa as well as St. Pete into a better place for our children. Whether it was his golf tournament, his fishing tournament, his softball tournament, he's always trying to make a difference. I hate to see the A-Train getting off the track, but in my mind, he's getting off the track in one piece. As hard as he has run the football and as many hits as he's taken, I'm very proud of the fact that he's getting out of this game and being able to walk around, play with his kids and enjoy his wife. I know it was a very hard decision to come to, but I thank God that he has made the decision and stuck with it."
Former Buccaneer Quarterback Brad Johnson: "I absolutely loved playing with Mike. He was a great closer in the fourth quarter of games and so many times, we would just hand him the ball and let him do the work. He has been a great friend to me, and the Buccaneers and all of football will miss him."
Former Buccaneer Head Coach Tony Dungy: "Mike was just such a special person and a special player for me because he was in our first draft class and was so instrumental in being part of that group that got it turned around for the Buccaneers. The way he played, as well as the big plays he made, but I think the fire and the determination that he played with, the things that made him such a fan favorite, are the same things that I always appreciated about him. He practiced hard, he played hard and he was just a total team guy.
"He is one of the best players and one of the best people that I've ever been around. I am happy for him that he had such a great career and just wish him the best in his retirement. He is definitely one special person in my eyes."
Former Buccaneers Running Back Warrick Dunn: "I wish Mike all the best in the next phase of his life. He had a career that anyone would be proud of. I was blessed to have played with him for five years."
Former Buccaneer Tackle Paul Gruber: "I think there are a few things that come to mind when I think of Mike Alstott; one is as an offensive lineman, he was a guy that you loved to block for. He always just gave that extra effort and made things happen especially around the goal line that you wouldn't expect. Also, the thing is that as an offensive lineman, you like to wear teams down and it was always fun to see what a strong runner he was in the fourth quarter, and just how he punished people. It would get to a point in the game where most teams didn't want to tackle him anymore."
Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden: "I have been fortunate to coach long enough to be around some truly special players and Mike Alstott certainly fits into that category. His contributions on the field and in the locker room were invaluable to our Super Bowl championship in 2002. Certainly as a coach, but even more so as a fan of his, it will be tough for me to not be able to watch him on Sundays. His passion for the game was contagious and he will most definitely be missed."
Sports Illustrated Writer Peter King: "To me, Mike Alstott has always epitomized what the NFL is about. He's gotten to a Pro Bowl level through hard work and diligence and being a team guy. And he's a good and normal person who doesn't know he's a famous guy because he treats people right. A Pro Bowler and a good person--that's a good way to be thought of by your peers and your public."
Former Buccaneer Safety John Lynch: "I think in many ways Mike Alstott embodied the transformation of the organization with the way he played and the style in which he played. In 1996, we drafted this young kid from Purdue and he helped turn this franchise from perennial losers to a championship team. His name was often overlooked when you spoke of the leaders on the team because he was a quiet kid. But the way he lifted the entire stadium and the entire sideline with his play truly showed why he was one of the leaders."
Former Buccaneer Center Tony Mayberry: "He really did have a genuine enthusiasm for the game. You would think a guy like that who gets smashed around on people would be more hyped up, but he wasn't, he was relaxed and just happy to be in the huddle. He would ask if everybody else was enjoying the moment as much as him, things like that. In a game-time situation where there is a lot of tension, that kind of attitude is very reassuring because as bad as it is, you should be having fun because you're playing a game, and I enjoyed that about him. That's the main thing I remember other than his physical nature and his punishing style of running. He was just happy, like he enjoyed being out there and probably that there was no other place for him that he wanted to be."
Former Buccaneers Tight End Dave Moore: "The first thing that comes to mind when you think about Mike is: WOW he got to do it all. He has gone to Pro Bowls, the playoffs, the Super Bowl, signed big contracts and was able to do it all with the Buccaneers. This is all a credit to Mike as a player and a teammate. He was always willing to do what was best for the team and that enabled him to play his entire career in Tampa.
"Mike and I spent many offseasons working hard getting ready for camp. In my opinion, you can judge an NFL player by his dedication to the game in the offseason, when no one is watching. I can assure you that Mike was not going to be outworked at any time or by anyone. He took the game of football very serious and was always ready to work. It was a privilege to play with Mike."
Former Buccaneer Defensive Tackle Warren Sapp: "I remember every time you lined up with him, every time you went to practice with him, every time you saw him in a meeting. He was the last person I touched before I walked onto the football field. His play over the years stands by itself, in a league by itself. The kid played real good ball for a long time and you could always count on him. The time and the memories I have of Mike Alstott are so great that I don't even consider him a teammate. I consider Mike Alstott family."
Buccaneers Center John Wade: "It was an honor to be a teammate of Mike's. It was fun to get to know him as a player and a person. On the field, his combination of power, agility and vision were second-to-none, and off the field, he is a great father and husband and a positive figure in the community. He had a great career and I've been lucky to see some of the big plays he has made and I'll always have visions of Mike running over people when his name is mentioned."