Several dozen men continued to fight for their spots on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster Saturday at the team's training camp. Among the capacity crowd looking one were several dozen others who knew the feeling well.
The Buccaneers held their annual training camp "Legends Day" on Saturday, and 36 former Tampa Bay players accepted invites to be the day's VIPs. Among those in attendance were the team's all-time leading rusher, James Wilder, Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles, Pro Bowl return man Clifton Smith and 1980s star receiver Kevin House. Future Hall of Famer Ronde Barber was also on hand, though he has watched much of this year's training camp as he prepares for his role as an analyst on the upcoming WFLA television broadcasts of the Buccaneers' preseason games.
The reunion was organized by Jill Hobbs, the Buccaneers' Player Benefits & Alumni Program Manager, who has been kept quite busy since the franchise began placing an emphasis on staying connected with its former players about 15 years ago. Legends Day is an important part of that as team alumni get an opportunity not only to witness their successors in action but also to reconnect with each other.
"I think it's important for a couple reasons," said Jason Odom, a former offensive tackle who played with the team from 1996-2000. "One, you get to see your former teammates, and there aren't a whole lot of things that bring us together these days. The other thing is just feeling like you belong to some sort of legacy. We all feel some sort of connection to the Buccaneer organization one way or another, whether you play one year or 15 years here. So it's special to be invited back and to be treated so nicely."
Like many retired players, Odom continues to live in the Bay area. He had a second career in law enforcement after his playing days and currently has a son set to play football at Jesuit High School, located just over a mile from Buccaneer headquarters. He reunited on Saturday with former teammates and fellow offensive linemen Tony Mayberry, Ian Beckles, Jorge Diaz and Cosey Coleman, among many others.
After taking in the team's two-hour practice, the three-dozen Buccaneer Legends took to the field for a group photo and some more socializing. As the current players headed in from practice there was a mingling of Buccaneer greats past and present…and given how many alumni had kids with them, maybe some of the future, too.
Four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, one of the most accomplished players of the current Buccaneer era, was glad to see the franchise place such value on his predecessors.
"This is great," said McCoy. "To see guys be recognized, or not forgotten, for all the work they put in while they were here in Tampa, that's always great to see. It gives me hope and excitement about how I'm going to be treated when I'm done playing."
McCoy is heading into his seventh NFL season and he's still early in a second Buccaneer contract that lasts through the 2021 season. Like Barber, Mayberry, Odom and several of the other alumni in attendance on Saturday, McCoy could play his entire NFL career in Tampa. Whether or not that comes to pass, he plans to come out for such Buccaneer alumni gathering in the future.
"I'm a Buc for life regardless of whether I retire here or not," said McCoy. "I'm going to come back and be a Buc on days like this. They gave me the opportunity to play in the NFL and live out my dream, so I'm going to be a Buc for life."
The following Buccaneer Legends attended training camp on Saturday: