The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Throwback Weekend began exactly where it should have…or perhaps when it should have: 1976.
On Sunday, the Buccaneers will play the second Throwback Game in team history, donning orange and white uniforms and the old pirate logo as they take on the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium. On Saturday night, a special group of men who first introduced those original Tampa Bay uniforms to the NFL gathered at One Buccaneer Place for a celebration of the franchise's inaugural season.
Approximately 30 players and coaches from the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were reunited on Saturday night to kick off a weekend of activities that will coincide with the team's Throwback Game. On Sunday, those same men will be recognized on the field during the first half of the Bucs-Falcons contest. They will be on hand to honor their head coach, John McKay, the second person inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor.
Their visit to One Buc Place on Saturday created a welcome connection between the franchise's past and present. The 1976 Buccaneers were greeted with a red-carpet photo opportunity outside the facility's front door, and inside they explored a lobby that doubles as a museum dedicated to the team history they helped build. The arrival was akin to a high school reunion, as men separated by time and distance gathered to share photos, family stories and fond memories of their playing days.
As difficult as that first season was, the 30 founding Buccaneers who reunited on Saturday had plenty of laughter, joy and fond memories to share with one another. They clearly still shared a bond, and that bond was created in large part by McKay, their leader and father figure in the early days.
Saturday's dinner was the beginning of a fabulous weekend for the 1976 Bucs. Their visit to One Buccaneer Place included a special dinner as well as a tour of the new facility, which differs drastically from the original team headquarters they once knew. The former Bucs were also scheduled to gather again for a tailgate party prior to Sunday's game, all leading up to the weekend's main event.
On Sunday, the 2010 Buccaneers will take the field in uniforms modeled on those worn by their 1976 counterparts. Those trailblazers will be on hand for the halftime ceremony that cements McKay's place in team history, complete with his name on the stadium's upper deck. Among those '76 Bucs who will deliver the posthumous honor to McKay is Lee Roy Selmon, the Hall of Fame defensive end who became the first Ring of Honor inductee a year ago.
The 1976 Buccaneers created the first set of memories in franchise history. This weekend, they'll have the opportunity to create more. Saturday night's dinner at One Buc Place paid tribute to a great coach, as well as a group of men who helped get a brand new team on its feet.