Right now, it's the Dougie. There was a time, however, when the end zone celebration that first came to the minds of Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans was the Hi-C backflip.
Hi-C, as many Buc fans know, was the bubbly nickname for Horace Copeland, who played wide receiver for the Buccaneers from 1993-97. A fourth-round draft pick out of Miami in '93, Copeland was best known as a tall, fast downfield threat, as evidenced by his NFL career average of 17.2 yards per catch. As a rookie, he burst onto the scene with a 633-yard season that included a gaudy 21.1 yards per catch, and a few very memorable moments in the painted grass.
In November of that rookie season, Copeland scored two touchdowns in an October game at home against Green Bay and the very next weekend scored twice more at Atlanta. After each of those TDs, Copeland celebrated with a joyous backflip, something he says fans to this day recall vividly.
"It's amazing," he said. "I'm actually more aware of that now than I was back then. Then I was just in a zone, but now when I meet people that's what everybody talks about. And I can't think of another Buc who has done a flip like that, I guess."
On Thursday, Copeland was one of several dozen former Buccaneers who took the opportunity presented by the Bucs' annual Alumni Day at training camp to reconnect with the team. Copeland was able to catch up with such former teammates as Marcus Jones, Tony Mayberry and Tyoka Jackson, but there were also alumni on hand representing every era of the franchise's four decades. A full list of the alumni who were on hand for Thursday's practice can be found at the bottom of this page.
Now a motivational speaker, Copeland has the same friendly and humble demeanor he had as a Buccaneer player in the '90s, and he still cuts a figure that makes one wonder if he could put on the pads now. (A preseason knee injury in 1996 robbed him of an entire season and may have made it difficult to him to regain his full pre-injury speed, as he played just two more seasons afterward, one with the Miami Dolphins.) But even if the torch has been passed on to a new generation since his playing days, Copeland still feels a connection to current Buc receivers like Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. He's not even envious that Jackson and Williams get to operate in a much more explosive offense than the one he was a part of in the 1990s.
"It would be a wonderful situation [to play in the current offense], but I don't regret playing in the past at all," said Copeland. "That was our time then. Now it's gratifying to watch the offense as it is now. Even though I'm not out there with those guys now, it still feels like a big fraternity of Buccaneer receivers."
Depending upon where one draws the line for the minimum requirements, the Bucs' single-season yards-per-catch record might belong to either Copeland or Kevin House, but Jackson got very close in his first year with the team last fall. House's average of 22.1 yards on 24 catches is the mark listed in the team's record book, but the league requirement for this category is two catches per team game, or 32 catches in a 16-game season. Copeland's 21.1 on 30 catches in 1993 would be second on the list, or first if one set the minimum at 30. House's mark of 21.0 on 56 catches in 1981 is the league-recognized record for the Buccaneers, while Jackson's 19.2 is the most by any Buccaneers with at least 60 catches in a season.
Copeland would be happy to see Jackson claim the record with an even bigger season in 2013. A true Bucs fan who wore a team polo shirt to Thursday's practice, Copeland was excited to see what Jackson and Williams could accomplish in their first year together in 2012 and believes that pair will produce even more this fall.
"They're a great duo," said Copeland. "They make plays, they catch the ball and make something happen after the catch. It's a great situation for this team. I think Jackson has helped Williams to be a better player, and now this year they can really feed off each other, which will open up the running game for the exceptional running back they have.
"This team can do some great things if the offense can continue and the defense can build this year. There's a lot of hope. They have great talent. I think all the pieces to the puzzle have been put together, with Darrelle Revis coming in to help the corner situation. We've got the guys on offense – the offense scored a lot of points last year. I think this year is going to be a lot better year than last year. If they can eliminate a few mistakes, they'll be right there in the mix."
The Buccaneers have taken significant measures in recent years to re-establish a strong connection with its alumni players, including a number of annual events such as the one Thursday at training camp. The introduction of the Ring of Honor in 2009 and the subsequent annual inductions into the Ring have also given the franchise an opportunity to reunite and honor great teams from its past. The success in those efforts can be seen in Copeland's use of the word "we" and the broad smile he flashed repeatedly during Thursday's practice. If the Buccaneers fulfill their postseason expectations this year, Hi-C and his fellow alumni will be along for the ride.
"You not only take pride in it, but it makes you feel special when you come out here to be a part of it," said Copeland of watching a new generation of Bucs chase the Lombardi Trophy. "The guys here, we remember those days when we were out there. It seems like no matter how many years go along, this makes us feel like we're still part of the team."
Alumni Day Attendees: