Mike Alstott didn't know that he had broken a record on November 26, 2001, but he does remember the play.
Early in the second half of a 24-17 win over the Rams in St. Louis, Alstott scored on an eight-yard run to give the Bucs a 17-9 lead. It was the 47th of his eventual 71 career touchdowns, surpassing the previous franchise record of 46 set by James Wilder. There was no announcement of the record at the Dome at America's Center, of course, and anyway, scoring touchdowns is just kind of what Mike Alstott did.
"We were on the left hash and it was up the middle and I just kind of scampered in there," said Alstott. "It wasn't much. It was a weakside belly play. I didn't know I broke the record, though."
Indeed, there were far more spectacular touchdown runs in Alstott's illustrious career, some of which are still burned into the memories of any Buccaneers fan of a certain vintage. He would go on to leave Wilder's mark well in the dust, and the way that Alstott got to his record will always be more memorable than the mark itself.
But it is an impressive record in and of itself, and it is about to be broken. Last Sunday, wide receiver Mike Evans scored on a 40-yard catch to give him 71 touchdowns in his equally impressive career. Like Alstott did, Evans has played his entire career in a Buccaneers uniform, and thus those 71 scores have now tied Alstott's record. Evans could fully break it as soon as this Monday night against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium.
Alstott will be there to cheer Evans and his team along, and whenever it happens he'll be happy to see his record go to a player the franchise and all of its fans can be proud of.
"Mike has worked hard to do this and it's going to be exciting," said Alstott. "I'm happy for him, and records are meant to be broken. I've been out of the league for a long time, after all. He's doing a great job and he's been a great team leader, guiding the team to another Super Bowl. He's worked hard and he's earned this."
When Evans does find the end zone for number 72, it will be a momentous occasion for the Buccaneers and an accomplishment that doesn't come along often in the NFL. The last franchise to see its touchdown record broken was the New England Patriots in 2016, by current Buccaneer Rob Gronkowski. Evans is currently the only active player to hold the touchdown record or a share of it for the team he is on. He already owns all of the Buccaneers' career receiving records.
"It just shows you that he's done something right to stay with the franchise for a good number of years so he can beat records and create records," said Alstott. "When you create records like he has, you're doing a lot of things right, and for a long time."
Thirty-eight of Alstott's 71 career touchdowns covered either one or two yards, at least statistically. In reality, some of those involved a lot more than a step or two, as Alstott was renowned for his second and third-effort scores. He once scored while bulling his way backwards into the end zone in Minnesota after his initial jump over the top was stopped and he landed on his feet and tried another approach. There is power to Evans' game as well, and he's made a career out of back-corner fades from close to the goal line, but he's also had plenty of deep-ball scores like the one last weekend in Washington. As the Buccaneers' touchdown record changes hand from one all-time great Mike to another, it also underscores how much the game has changed from Alstott's era to Evans' era.
"I think the game has changed, no question," said Alstott, who played most of his career on a team that emphasized defense and a powerful rushing attack. "There's only a couple of teams that will stick the run. I don't think anybody really has that smashmouth type of football that we used to have back in the day. I think the Bucs try to stick with the run a little bit. They pass a lot but Fournette's involved in the game a lot, which is good. I kind of dig it. It seems like Fournette is that balance between run and pass."
One thing that hasn't changed in the 20 years since that unassuming eight-yard run into the end zone in St. Louis is Alstott's allegiance to the Buccaneers. "The A-Train" made an untold number of diehard fans during his more than a decade of – to use his term – smashmouth football and his name and number are on the Raymond James Stadium façade as part of the team's Ring of Honor. Alstott is still an extremely popular era in the Bay area, he's helped countless members of the community through his Mike Alstott Family Foundation, and he attends most Buccaneer home games.
And that's why he'll be one of the witnesses to his record being broken after so many years if Evans scored a touchdown on Monday night. Whether or not a great athlete ever wants their records broken, it is usually inevitable, and in this case Alstott will get to see it go to a man he admires.
"I think it's great," said Alstott. "I'm a big fan of Mike's. He's been one of the faces of the franchises for so long. He's been doing unbelievable things on and off the field, winning championships and creating records. They're doing a great job as a team and Mike is a big part of it. He's been at the forefront of changing the Buccaneers into what they are today."