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FB Mike Alstott has made the end zone his own territory, securing a place in Buccaneers history and spurring Tampa Bay to victory


When other Bucs visit the end zone, it is often to congratulate FB Mike Alstott (40) on yet another touchdown

Mike Alstott's six-year NFL career path has had many twists and turns, even a detour or two. Alstott's unique set of talents and the ever-changing offensive cast around him have prompted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to try him in a variety of roles.

One year, he's primarily a pass-catcher, the next he's a short-yardage runner. He leads the team in rushing one season and is a secondary option the next. Even this season, Alstott began the year in a somewhat undefined role, as Warrick Dunn was considered the offense's focal point, but has emerged as the team's leading rusher. Still, the four-time Pro Bowler is just as likely to have five carries in a game as 20.

But no matter how many forks and switchbacks Alstott's career path takes, it always comes back to the same place.

The end zone.

Taken in the second round of the 1996 draft out of Purdue and thrust almost immediately into the role of fan favorite, Alstott has secured a lasting place in franchise history through a nose for paydirt that has not failed him in even one of his six seasons.

Sunday, in the Bucs' 15-12 victory over the Detroit Lions, Alstott scored the game's first points on a 24-yard touchdown run, giving him nine scores on the season. He has recorded at least five touchdowns in each of his six seasons and only saw his total dip that low last year thanks to an injury-plagued second half and Dunn's December breakout.

Only two players in the NFC have scored more touchdowns this season than Alstott – St. Louis RB Marshall Faulk, who has touched the ball 223 times this season, and San Francisco WR Terrell Owens, who has 78 receptions. In contrast to Faulk, the Buc fullback has just 146 combined runs and catches so far this year.

Someone familiar only with the league stat sheet and the position Alstott plays might get the wrong idea about his high rate of touchdowns per carry. This is no ponderous bruiser who simply pounds the ball in from the one. In sharp contrast to that image is the visual evidence on Alstott's ever-growing highlight reel, which would include, in just the last seven games, touchdown runs of 24, 10, eight, seven, six and three yards, plus a 19-yard scoring reception.

Against the Lions, Alstott finished a 91-yard drive by bursting through a hole directly into the Detroit secondary, then angling to run right at CB Todd Lyght, rather than away from the pursuit. When the two collided, Lyght stumbled backwards and to the ground and the 250-pound Alstott continued calmly on to the end zone.

It was the 38th time he has visited that promised land on a carry, giving him the Buccaneers' all-time lead in that category, which he had briefly shared with James Wilder at 37 apiece.

Two weeks earlier, Alstott had scored twice against the St. Louis Rams to surpass Wilder's total touchdowns record of 46. The former Boilermaker now owns 48 career touchdowns, plus a pair of two-point conversions for a total of 292 points. Only three kickers – Michael Husted (502), Donald Igwebuike (416) and Martin Gramatica (310 and counting) – rank above him on that team chart.

Two more touchdowns in the Bucs' last four games would give Alstott a career-high 11 on the season, surpassing the 10 he put up in 1997. Only three players in team history have hit double-digits in TDs – Alstott, Wilder and Errict Rhett. If Alstott can find the end zone four more times in Tampa Bay's last five games, he would tie Wilder's 1984 team record of 13 touchdowns.

And that would almost certainly be good news for the Buccaneers. We could break down Alstott's four-dozen touchdowns in an endless number of impressive ways, but the most impressive aspect of that total remains how important each score has been to Tampa Bay's fortunes.

How important? In the 38 regular season games that Alstott has scored a touchdown, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 31-7.

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