Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Hard to Say Goodbye

For Buccaneer fans with fond memories of Mike Alstott's greatest moments on and off the field, a chance to share their recollections doubled as a bittersweet reminder that the A-Train has supplied his last on-field highlight

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What Buccaneer fan doesn't remember this high-flying touchdown against Washington in 2005?

Almost from the day he arrived in Florida, Mike Alstott has had a special relationship with Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans.

Early in September of 1996, after he had played all of one regular-season game as a Buccaneer, The Tampa Tribune was already referring to Alstott as a "fan favorite." The Bucs had lost that season opener big, to Green Bay, but the rookie fullback had turned in several tackle-breaking plays, the type that would soon become his signature.

Those never-say-die runs and receptions, more the product of will than skill, dragged just about every Buc fan to Alstott's side. Handoffs to the jumbo back with the nimble feet soon became can't-miss moments for the fans, whether they were in the stadium or watching on television. Two games into his second season, as the Buccaneers were taking the league by storm in 1997, Alstott scored on a ridiculous third-effort run in Minnesota that still stands as one of the most amazing highlights in the franchise's 33-year history. The love affair was on, and Alstott would soon grow into, arguably, the most popular player in franchise history.

Then, in January of 2008, following a season spent on injured reserve due to a second neck injury, Alstott retired from the game of football. It was a difficult day for the player, the team and the fans; Alstott would have preferred to keep playing at least one more season and Buccaneer fans clearly never tired of rooting him on.

The end was inevitable, of course, as it is for every athlete's playing career. At some point, Alstott would make his last run, break his last tackle and score his last touchdown. That point has arrived, and so Buccaneer fans must content themselves with their memories of Alstott's most unforgettable moments.

And, oh, what memories they are. As part of this week's tribute to Alstott, who will be feted by the team and the crowd on Sunday evening during the Bucs-Seahawks game, Buccaneers.com has run A-Train articles from several perspectives. Alstott himself has chimed in with a Q&A, and we've posted our own opinion of his 10 greatest games.

Now it's the fan's turn. For the last few days, Buccaneers.com has collected the fans' memories of Alstott's career on the team message board. Below, we've copied a sampling of some of the most poignant and entertaining thoughts from the fans.

Here's what you had to say about the A-Train (comments posted under message board usernames):

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By Bucs79:

As an avid Bucs fan since 79, I traveled to a pre-season game vs Pittsburgh during Alstott's rookie season. He was relatively unknown and I remember vividly sitting in the end zone in Pittsburgh stadium (wearing my tangarine Bucs jersey) and seeing Alstott line up in the backfield (I was behind the offense and had a clear view of Alstott from behind). I turned to my buddy (a Patriot fan) and said look at the size of that fullback - his calves were huge. We watched him get the ball and just plow through the defensive line with such force and power. I became an immediate fan and thought to myself - WOW, we have finally got a playmaker on offense. Every time I watched the Bucs from that day forward, I could not wait to see what Mike would do when he got the ball (or when he blocked for one of the many running backs through the years).

Mike - you will be truly missed. You are a football persona and deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame.

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By sapp is da man:

It was at Raymond James Stadium, against the Saints in 2001. It was a crazy game that started with an almost kickoff return for a TD and saw John Lynch making kickoffs. Alstott broke off a run in the second quarter, breaking tackle after tackle. It was replayed on the jumbotron and it seemed like everyone in the stands was looking at the replay of the run. I counted his first tackle out loud, his second, his third and then I became aware the people around me were counting along as well. FOUR! FIVE! SIX! SEVEN! EIGHT! By the time we had reached the 9th and final broken tackle, the ENTIRE stadium was counting his broken tackles at the top of their lungs...60,000 people spontaneously cheering on Mikey....it was amazing.

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By RuudGurl:

Mike gave us all hope. He made the impossible possible. He made "going for it" on 4th down not such a crazy idea. Just when you thought he was down, he would shake everyone off for another 5 yards. The best part about Mike though, was that off the field, he was also a hero to look up to. He was always involved in the community, and would take time out for all of his fans. Thanks Mike, we will never forget you!

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By Dead Eagle:

That run against the Browns in '02 was a classic. But my favorite, and in my opinion the most important rush in Buccaneers' history, was the 1-yard TD Mike scored to cap the Bucs' 96-yard drive in the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles at Veterans Stadium. That score was not unlike many others that Mike scored during his career, but it sent the message to everyone watching that day that those Buccaneers went to Philly to win.

And with that play early in the game, we had already scored more points than we did the previous two playoff games there. It set the tone for the rest of the game, for the whole team.

There may not be posters here who have benefitted firsthand, but let's not forget Mike's contribution to the communities in and around Tampa. As great as he was on the field, he was just as good off it. From various charities like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Children's Cancer Center, and even his own foundation (The Mike Alstott Family Foundation), to his football camps and even partnering with former Buc Dave Moore to spur jobs with the creation of the Island Way Grill, Tampa has benefitted greatly from adopting Mike Alstott.

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By BucFanInKC:

My favorite overall was the TD plunge against the Eagles in the NFC Title game. When Alstott scored touchdowns during the Super Bowl season, the Bucs won games.

Thanks Mike. Your knee buckling hits and goal line airplane dives are legendary.

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By pettydude:

Probably what sticks out in my mind is the "best one-yard run in NFL history." It was against the Vikings in the Metrodome. I was sitting in the end zone and the Bucs were coming at me. I remember being initially disappointed 'cause from where I was sitting I saw Mike go into the pile, with a long hesitation, so I thought he was down. Then coming around the right side was big ol' #40, but there were still a couple Vikings guarding the end zone. Mike turned his back and just bulldozed his way through the Viking defenders into the end zone! It was really weird though, because it was quiet, but the Vikings fans around us were shaking their head and saying things like, "I can't believe that." We watched Viking players walk to the sideline in disbelief. I just remember thinking that I had witnessed quite possibly one of the greatest players to ever play the position. Thanks for the awesome memories Mike!

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By Bucsheart:

Everyone here has great memories of Mike on the field, but my great memory comes off of it, in a parking lot at a local Bay area car dealership. I'm a lifelong Buccaneer fan from Pennsylvania. My wife and I were just getting into town after the long drive from PA to Tampa. I was taking her to see my beloved Bucs take on the Packers. As we were driving to our hotel exhausted from the drive we heard on the radio that Mike Alstott was at an event signing autographs. We had no idea were we where or where the event was being held. We stopped at a mall and asked some people if they knew where the event was; we stopped at a deli to do the same but no one seemed to be able to point us in the right direction. Finally we got back in the car and waited to hear the ad again. When it came on we got out the map and found our way to the dealership were Mike was signing. Once we arrived we tore through our bags trying to find my #40 jersey and anything else that we could have Mike sign. As we walked up to the area where the signing was taking place we noticed that they were starting to pack things up and the event was winding down. We saw Mike and Dave Moore still sitting at a table talking to a few people. We rushed over just hoping that we might still get Mike to sign something for us. Well, he did better than that. Mike and Dave both took the extra time to sign everything we wanted signed and to pose for pictures with me and my wife. It wasn't my first Bucs game but it was my first close encounter with one of my Buccaneer heroes. I still cherish that moment as one of my greatest memories as a Buccaneer fan. Thanks for all the memories Mike.

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By bcslver55:

2006 against Chicago when we almost came back and beat the Bears in OT. I was sitting in the front row in the south end zone at Soldier Field and we were down big at the half. On the way to the locker room Ricky Manning Jr. (Chicago CB) saw me booing and pointed directly at me and laughed. Second half comes around, Mike gets the ball in the red zone, runs off the right end, stiff-arms Manning to the ground and walks into the end zone to begin the comeback.

Thanks Mike, for one of the best days of my life.

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By BlindSquirrel:

Playing the Falcons a few years back. Brad Johnson hands off to Mike Alstott, Mike cuts it out to the left, he has open field in front of him around the corner. He gets tripped up at the 5-yard line and slides to the goal line. He raises up on his hands and you can see the determination and frustration on his face that he didn't score. I believe he ran that way every time he touched the ball...no fear....ready to give the lick...not take it. He will be missed.....I loved to watch him run.

Thanks Mike.

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By Luv2Win:

I think that besides our stellar defenses, Mike Alstott defined "Buc Ball" as we know it. There is just something about seeing a man run over their opponents with that sheer force of will that he brought to his game that makes your heart swell with pride and anticipation.

It will be hard not to know that feeling again, not to hear analysts tell the stories of pulling jeeps to condition himself, not to hear that 'rumbling, stumbling, RUMBLING,' with appreciation in the voices of those that report the game. But we know that he changed football for Tampa, and we will always hold him in our hearts for that.

Thank you, Mike Alstott, for making this football fan thrilled that it was Sunday, for so many years. Thanks for all the hoarse Monday mornings, because of all the cheering done at the stadium...because I could relive all those great moments with others and say "I was there!"

I wish for you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

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By KG21MVP:

The Browns game during the Super Bowl year. I think he broke more than 3 or 4 tackles. He should tremendous strength, balance, determination and will in that one run alone. In that one run he demonstrated exactly who he was as a football player.

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83BucRocker:

You know, I was trying to single out my favorite play; and it truly just finally sank in that Mike is retired, and won't be bringing his passion and determination into the huddle again. With tears in my eyes, I just hope that Mr. Alstott understands what he has done for the team, the community, and the fans. As far as I'm concerned, you've been in Canton for quite some time.

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