Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Old Cowboys Never Die

George Hegamin, one of the few players in this Sunday’s game to play for the other team, still thinks highly of Dallas

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T George Hegamin knows why his new teammates are so eager to beat his old team

George Hegamin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive tackle, wears a Super Bowl ring from his stint with the Dallas Cowboys (1994-97). That type of hardware practically ensures fond memories.

But Hegamin took more from his Dallas experience than fine jewelry. He has moved on to Philadelphia (1998) and Tampa Bay (1999-2000), and is thrilled to be a Buccaneer, but he believes many of the elements that made the Cowboys so successful in the 1990s are still in place.

And that is why Hegamin expects a fierce battle on Sunday, even if the Cowboys are beaten up and sporting their worst record in years.

"Oh, trust me, I guarantee you they are not going to lay down," said Hegamin. "That's their mentality – play until the whistle blows, play all 60 minutes, regardless of where they are in the standings. What are they, 4-8 right now? That is just as bad as them coming in here being 12-0, because it's a pride thing. I know the guys that were there when I was playing with them are professionals. They're going to come in and play like it.

"They have something to play for. Obviously, they're not playing for a playoff berth, but they're playing for pride. They're professionals and they go up there and line up on Wednesdays and Thursdays just like we do, and nobody wants to be embarrassed on Sunday. It should be a good game regardless of the record."

Hegamin believes that the Buccaneers will be just as fired up, for virtually the same reason.

"Trust me, they've always been America's Team and they're still America's Team," said Hegamin. "Any time you get a chance to make a statement against the Cowboys, you'd better make a good statement. It's kind of like a notch a guy can put in his career, when he goes up against a team that has as much of a reputation as the Cowboys have had.

"A lot of the guys around here are excited, particularly our defensive line. They're very excited. They have a very good offensive line and always have. It's going to be a war – I'm glad I'm going to be on the other side."

Even Hegamin can't deny that Dallas has finally declined somewhat after an extended stay among the league's elite teams. It's an inevitability, according to the former Cowboy.

"I think any time you have a team that has as much as success as they've had, a lot of teams want to come and pick their core players away," said Hegamin. "That's pretty much what happened over the years, along with different guys retiring, like Jay Novacek. Injuries…it all plays into it. It's hard to keep a good team together for a long time these days, especially with free agency."

That's the route Hegamin took in 1998, when he signed in Philly as an unrestricted free agent. And, while he still admires the system in Dallas, he's definitely on the other side now.

"That was a great time," said Hegamin. "It was early in my career; I made a lot of life-long friendships with a lot of different guys. However, at the same time, looking at their roster now, there's maybe only a handful of guys that are there, maybe only one or two guys that I was playing against on defense, who were playing there when I was there. So the whole emotional thing kind of goes out the window. This is basically a playoff game for us, and that's how I'm approaching it as an individual."

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