His playing days concluded, Shelton Quarles knew he wanted to continue his football career in Tampa
In building their staff, just as in shaping their roster, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are always looking for good teammates. Who better to add to the team, then, but a man who has already proved to be one of the best teammates in franchise history?
That man is former Pro Bowl linebacker Shelton Quarles. On Wednesday, the team announced the hiring of Quarles as a pro scout in the personnel department.
Quarles concluded his brilliant playing career after the 2006 season, forced out by injuries while his passion for the game was still hot. He wasn't removed from the game for long, and the Buccaneers feel fortunate that he will remain with the team as he moves into the next stage of his career. Quarles, too, knew that the best place for him was still One Buccaneer Place.
"It feels like home," he said. "Being away from the team all offseason was different after being here every day for 10 years. I'm just happy to be here. I know that as long as I do the same things in this job as I did on the football field, that I'll be successful."
Indeed, many of the same traits that made Quarles such a productive linebacker – a quick mind, an iron work ethic, knowledge of the game, an ability to make critical judgments on the fly – will also serve him well as a talent evaluator.
"Q has a unique blend of intelligence, passion and commitment to the game of football," said Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen. "We believe he can utilize his special talents to assist our coaches in our primary objective: winning."
In 10 seasons with the Buccaneers, Quarles racked up 985 tackles, third-most in franchise history. He also contributed 13 sacks, four interceptions, 28 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and 77 tackles on special teams. His 98-yard touchdown return of an interception against Green Bay in 2001 is the longest play of any kind in Buccaneer history.
"As I said this spring when Shelton's playing career in Tampa came to an end, we hoped that he would choose to continue his association with the team," said General Manager Bruce Allen. "We have seen through the years what kind of worker Shelton is, and we have no doubt he will be as successful in this aspect of football as he was on the field."
In the scouting department, Quarles will be working with Allen, Doug Williams and Mark Dominik; coincidentally, Dominik is the man who found Quarles in the Canadian Football League and brought him to the Bucs' camp in 1997. Quarles was an immediate hit in that camp and was soon Tampa Bay's special teams player. By 1999, he was the starter at strongside linebacker. In 2002, he moved to middle linebacker at the behest of new Head Coach Jon Gruden, put together a Pro Bowl season and helped the Buccaneers win Super Bowl XXXVII.
Quarles had previously tried to make it in the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Miami in 1994, but that opportunity failed to pan out. Three years later, Tampa proved to be the perfect spot for his return to the league. The same is true now that he has moved into the second phase of his career with the team.
"It's a good fit for me," he said. "I understand the game of football and hopefully the strengths I have will allow me to be successful in this new endeavor. I'm excited about an opportunity to be a part of the organization again. The Bay area and the Buccaneers have always been my choice, on the field or off the field."
Quarles also joins a growing list of former Buccaneer players who have returned to the team in another capacity. Gruden initiated a revival of interest in the franchise's history and its alumni upon his arrival in 2002, and, at Allen's urging, the team has advanced that idea in recent years with a number of hires.
Williams, of course, is a former Buccaneer great and now a valuable member of the player personnel staff, having left the head coaching job at Grambling in 2004 to return to his first NFL team. Earlier this spring, the team paired tight end Dave Moore's retirement with the announcement that he would take over for the departed Hardy Nickerson (another former Buc) as the color analyst on the Bucs' radio game broadcasts.
Other former Buccaneer players who are now on staff include Eric Vance, once a safety and now the team's director of player development; one-time running back and current college scout Reggie Cobb; and Dwayne Stukes, a former safety who now serves as a coaches assistant.
"We get to know some of these men very well when they're playing for us, working hard in the weight room and providing leadership in the locker room," said Allen. "We've seen their strengths, we know they are hard workers and we know their loyalty is to the Buccaneers. We like nothing better than to bring such a man back to the team to help us win football games in another way.
"And that is why we are so pleased to announce today's hiring of Shelton Quarles."