Jimmie Giles lit up Tampa Stadium, former home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, like no player before him. Now Giles' name is going up in the lights at the Buccaneers' new stamping ground.
Built just to the south of where Tampa Stadium used to stand, Raymond James Stadium has many distinctive features, one of which is the Buccaneers' burgeoning Ring of Honor. On December 4, 2011, Giles will become the third player inducted into that exclusive club. The ceremony will take place at halftime of the Buccaneers' Week 13 game against the Carolina Panthers and will culminate with the unveiling of Giles' name and number on the stadium's façade.
The team announced the selection of Giles as its newest Ring of Honor inductee at a press conference at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday. As has been the case in each of the past two years, the induction ceremony will coincide with the Buccaneers' Throwback Game. Tampa Bay players will don the same orange-and-white uniforms that Giles wore during his unparalleled nine-year career as a Buccaneer.
The Ring of Honor was introduced in 2009 with the induction of former defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, who remains the only player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who primarily played for the Buccaneers. In 2010, legendary Head Coach John McKay was posthumously inducted into the Ring, celebrating the career of the coach who built an expansion team into a contender.
Giles becomes the first offensive player to enter the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor. That's fitting, as Giles was the team's first breakout star on that side of the ball.
Acquired from Houston in a trade prior to the 1978 NFL Draft, Giles quickly emerged as the first offensive Pro Bowl player in franchise history. In fact, through the first eight years of the franchise, Giles was the only offensive player to represent the team at the league's annual all-star game, making the trip to Hawaii following the 1980, 1981 and 1982 seasons. Though running back James Wilder joined him in that exclusive club in 1984, Giles then made his fourth Pro Bowl trip in 1985; to that point in team history, only Selmon had been to the all-star game more frequently.
Giles' four Pro Bowl selections remain the second-highest total among offensive players in franchise annals, trailing only the six trips made by fullback Mike Alstott between 1997 and 2002. Giles is still the only Buccaneer tight end to be selected for that honor.
A naturally-gifted athlete who was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 12th round of the 1976 MLB draft, Giles possessed a combination of size and speed that was unusual at his position in the '70s and '80s. Though he stood 6-3 and weighed close to 250 pounds, Giles was known for stretching the field, as evidenced by his impressive career average of 15.4 yards per reception. As a comparison, the team's all-time leading pass-catcher, former wideout Mark Carrier, finished with an average of 15.6 yards per grab as a Buccaneer. Even noted deep threat Joey Galloway, one of the NFL's fastest players in his prime, barely topped Giles with an average of 15.8 yards per reception as a Buccaneer.
In 1980, Giles not only led all NFL tight ends with 602 yards on 33 catches, but he was one of the league's best downfield threats, period. Among all players with at least 25 receptions, that season, Giles led the league with 18.2 yards per grab.
Giles' other noteworthy career trend was his nose for the end zone. In his nine seasons in Buccaneer orange, the gregarious tight end racked up 34 touchdown catches, which is still tops the list in the franchise record books. Giles also owns the team record for most touchdowns of any kind in a single game, racking up four scoring catches in a 1985 shootout against the Miami Dolphins. The resulting 24 points Giles recorded in that contest is also a Buccaneer single-game record.
In all, Giles finished his Buccaneer tenure with 279 catches for 4,300 yards and those 34 scores. He ranks seventh all-time in receptions and third in yards and is the only tight end in the top 10 in either category.
Perhaps more important than the raw numbers – as impressive as they are – is the contributions Giles made to the franchise's amazing turnaround in the late '70s and early '80s.
On April 24, 1978 – eight days before the '78 draft was set to begin – the Buccaneers swung a deal with the Oilers that sent the first overall pick to Houston in exchange for the 17th overall pick, a second-round pick in 1978, third and fifth-round picks in 1979 and a 23-year-old tight end with career NFL totals of 14 games, three starts and 17 catches. That player was Giles, who had been drafted in the third round just one year earlier by Houston, and who hadn't even played football at his alma mater of Alcorn State until his junior season.
It was a bold move by the Buccaneers, who had used the first overall college draft pick in each of the previous two years on Selmon (1976) and their franchise back, Ricky Bell (1977). Indeed, the Oilers used the pick they acquired from Tampa to take eventual Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell. But Tampa Bay already had the promising Bell in their backfield and intended to use the 17th pick to grab their franchise quarterback, Doug Williams. Adding Giles in the same deal instantly gave the Buccaneers' previously-moribund offense a potentially prolific connection in the passing game.
Giles had a good first year in Tampa, catching 23 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns, but Williams missed a good portion of that campaign due to injuries. In 1979, both players blossomed and so did the Buccaneers' playoff hopes, as the team opened with a 5-0 record and went on to finish 10-6 and win the NFC Central. Giles caught 40 passes for 579 yards and seven touchdowns and the Buccaneers advanced all the way to the conference championship game in just their fourth year of existence.
After the aforementioned 1980 season in which he repeatedly caught big passes downfield, Giles posted his top statistical season in 1981, with 45 receptions for 786 yards, six touchdowns and an average of 17.5 yards per catch. He remained a key part of the Buccaneers' offense through 1986 and as late as 1985 put up such impressive numbers as 43 catches for 673 yards and a career-best eight TDs.
After departing the Buccaneers, Giles concluded his career with three more seasons split between Detroit and Philadelphia. His final career NFL numbers include 188 games played, 130 starts, 350 receptions, 5,084 yards and 41 touchdowns.
The vast majority of that, of course, came in a Buccaneer uniform, as Giles constructed one of the most impressive decades of play in franchise annals. On a team that was just gaining a foothold in the national spotlight for the first time, Giles was a standout, a weapon few teams could match and even fewer could keep in check. Decades later, he remains one of the most memorable performers in team history.
Giles has already secured a prominent place in the memories of all long-time Buccaneer fans. This December, his name will join those of Selmon and McKay on the walls of Raymond James Stadium, there as a reminder of greatness for future generations of Buccaneer fans.