Seeing double? For the first time, all nine men depicted in the Moment of Victory statue were on hand to see their likenesses
Warren Sapp rubbed the silver belly of the frozen man in front of him, turned to long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammate Derrick Brooks and said with a wide smile, "They got this part right!"
The belly Sapp was rubbing belonged to someone (or something) very familiar to him. It had a somewhat ghostly silver and black complexion and it was maybe a tiny bit shorter than life size, but that figure was none other than Warren Sapp himself.
Sapp, who like his full-figured doppelganger was always larger than life during 13 seasons in the NFL, rubbed the figure's belly as he climbed up on the base of the sprawling statue known as Moment of Victory. The statue is the centerpiece of the historical Buccaneers museum that graces the lobby of One Buccaneer Place, and it depicts the instant in Super Bowl XXXVII when the team knew it had won its first NFL title.
Sapp is one of nine figures in some sort of celebratory pose making up the Moment of Victory statue, which sits in the most forward section of the lobby at team headquarters, seated in the base of the giant football that gives the building its distinctive look. Early Saturday evening, all nine men who have been immortalized in the piece of art were there in the Buccaneers' lobby, live and ready for a night of celebration.
The gathering was made possible by that evening's retirement party for Mike Alstott at Raymond James Stadium. The black-tie gala attracted hundreds of Alstott acquaintances, including dozens and dozens of current and former teammates. Among those teammates were the men in the statue – Alstott, Sapp, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, Brad Johnson, John Lynch, Shelton Quarles, Simeon Rice and Head Coach Jon Gruden.
And all nine made a point of gathering at Buccaneers headquarters an hour before the party in order to get a good look at the statue and – even better – pose on it for a group photo. One by one, the former teammates and Super Bowl heroes took their places next the remarkable renderings that will greet visitors to One Buccaneer Place for many years to come.
Of course, Gruden, Alstott, Barber and Brooks have had many previous looks at the Moment of Victory statue, as all of them have enjoyed the benefits of the team's new state-of-the-art headquarters since August of 2006. The other five men, however, were getting their first glimpses of the remarkable piece, and they were universally delighted by the reproductions.
"I think it's pretty symbolic of what this program did and what we were a part of," said Lynch, who jokingly took exception with his figure's hairline but admitted that it was a strong likeness. "It's pretty special what we built here and it's great to be able to come back. It's not often when you're playing this game that you really get to stop and reflect on what you've done. It's nights like this where you can."
Joe Jurevicius, another star of the team's 2002 Super Bowl run, was also on hand, though he doesn't happen to be depicted in the statue. His reaction to the statue, the lobby and the headquarters as a whole was one of wonderment, according to Brooks.
"Jurevicius and Brad have just seen the lobby and they're saying it's probably half as big as the old building," laughed the veteran linebacker. "Seeing their response and knowing that I'm still here, Ronde's still here and Mike – we had a chance to enjoy this building and they kind of live through us. But I still go back to One Buc. There's something about that old place that this new place doesn't have, and that's a championship. Hopefully we can have a championship associated with this building, and in my opinion that would make it worth every dollar that was spent on it."
The statue is based on photos taken of the winning sideline late in Super Bowl XXXVII. Though it does not depict one specific moment – all nine men were never in that tight of a circle together on the sideline in the closing minutes of the game – it does represent the manner in which the nine men reacted to that point when they know victory was secure. Gruden, for instance, is frozen in mid fist-pump, while Sapp is caught bellowing in delight and Rice is captured in midair during a leap of joy.
It is a moment that none of these men will ever forget, and it was brought back more vividly on Saturday evening thanks to the Moment of Victory statue.
"It's pretty cool," said Lynch. "It's a little different than One Buc – the old One Buc. I guess this is One Buc, too. This is awesome, it really is."