The Southern California sun is beating down on a pleasant, nearly 80-degree day. The air has a slight breeze and there are still a few hours before all the action starts. It's quiet. Buccaneers speed and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom draws a line in the clay gravel dirt of the warning track inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home to the L.A. Rams, currently. After taking a few steps, he dives across the line he's drawn, just like he did back in 1984, in that very same spot. Only, when he did it back then, it secured Kingdom an immortalizing gold medal and set a new record during the 1984 Olympic Games.
"I had a lot of fun pregame," Kingdom smiled. "But then I was able to turn all of that excitement and attention back to the game."
Yes, the game. Kingdom was inside the hallowed walls of the Coliseum this time as a member of the Tampa Bay coaching staff, as the 1-2 Buccaneers were in town visiting the 3-0 defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams. The Bucs were trying to get their young season back on track in the first of five straight road contests and simultaneously bounce back from a disappointing Week Three home loss.
It wasn't Kingdom's first time back to the historic venue in South Central LA. He had returned while on staff with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015 for the first time in 31 years. The Cardinals won that game against the Rams, with many fellow coaches and players knowing what it meant to Kingdom to be back there.
"I think this time going in there, I really had an opportunity to appreciate the accomplishments, appreciate what happened there," Kingdom said of returning with the Buccaneers. "It would be great if we can win this game against a team that no one is giving us a chance against and come out with that same feeling I did.
"It meant more to me to win that football game than it did to re-live those moments."
Still unsure of their identity, the Buccaneers were the overwhelming underdogs. Los Angeles had stomped its way to a perfect record so far in the season, coming off a Sunday night win over the reinvigorated Cleveland Browns the prior week. With a defense led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and quarterback Jared Goff armed with offensive weapons like Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Brandin Cooks, the Rams were the favorites by a mile - or perhaps, 110 meters.
It wasn't unlike the first time Kingdom walked into the Coliseum in 1984. Kingdom was far from the favorite in the 110-meter hurdle event, too. He was a converted football player, playing free safety for the University of Pittsburgh – his track and field career an afterthought for much of his college career. He was too bulky. He didn't have enough experience. He needed to go back to football.
Until he didn't.
"I went in there and no one gave me a chance," Kingdom said. "We went in there with kind of the same position I was in with the '84 Olympic Games. For us to come out victorious over the Rams, who nobody thought that we had a chance against, was just as big as me as the underdog beating the overwhelming favorite, Greg Foster, in 1984. It was just kind of that same feeling, it paralleled itself.
"Once we jumped up on the Rams, nobody cared about us being up on the Rams because they just thought, ok the Rams are going to come back and they're going to find a way to win. It was the same thing. I ran the same time the favorite did and nobody even gave me a shot."
But like the Bucs, Kingdom was defiantly triumphant. It was the first race he celebrated afterward, running the final race and clinching the gold with a time of 13.20. Through his 17-year career, he's only celebrated after three races: the 1984 Olympic finals, the 1988 Olympic finals, where he also won gold, and after winning the world championships in 1995 coming off major knee surgery.
Had he not just recently had back surgery, Kingdom said the Bucs' win in LA would have been cause for another celebration.
The story practically writes itself, doesn't it? Through the ups and downs of his career, Kingdom has learned a lot. He owns a lot of knowledge he tries to impart on his players that goes beyond speed training. He's fought through injuries, the twists and turns of life as a professional athlete and had to overcome insurmountable circumstances to have success - nearly two decades of success in track and field, to be exact.
"One of the things I learned is that you gotta always stay humble," Kingdom said. "That keeps you working hard. When you think that you've arrived, you get complacent and that's when somebody is going to tip up on you. That's one of the things I try to relate to a lot of these guys. You have a big win like the one you had against the Carolina Panthers when nobody thought we could, but then we came back from the road and got complacent. We got stomped on at the end by the Giants, you know? But then all of a sudden this week, we bounced back and showed what kind of talent we have and beat the Rams. You got to stay humble. It keeps you grinding. Even though you had a big win, in your mind, that's just not good enough. We have to do better and that's one of the things that Coach Arians keeps telling them every day. That meant nothing. That's over. We now have to be better for the next game and that's what I live my life by and that's why I was able to sustain and win most every major title."
In Kingdom's sights now? That's easy.
A Super Bowl.