WR Karl Williams owns five of the eight punt return touchdowns in franchise history
Some time this fall, during the 29th season in franchise history, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers player will return a kickoff for a touchdown. You heard it here first.
Well, hopefully this year. If not, maybe 2005.
Okay, so we're not real strong in the prediction department. It's a bit dicey, after all, to predict the end of the most ignominious streak in Buccaneer annals. Tampa Bay has a Lombardi Trophy now, but still no kickoff return for a touchdown. One thousand, six hundred and forty five kickoffs run back since 1976; hopefully the team will get one in the end zone before that number reaches 2,000.
Here's a safer prediction: Over the next week, Buccaneer fans will choose the greatest kick returner in team history. As we continue with our selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' All-Time Team, we move on to the fearless men who brave high, hanging kicks in the face of crazed special-team gunners, all in the name of a few extra yards of field position.
And, despite the Bucs' well-known kickoff return streak, the team has had some very talented return men. Tampa Bay does have eight punt return touchdowns, all of them in the last decade. They have recently come tantalizingly close on kickoff returns as well.
For this exercise, we are combining the two jobs of bringing back punts and kickoffs together into one position: kick returner. Whoever wins this position is going to have to handle both tasks, a la Brian Mitchell or Michael Lewis.
Our list of candidates include men who were particularly talented at bringing back punts (such as Karl Williams and his five touchdowns), men who excelled at returning kickoffs (such as all-time leader Aaron Stecker) and men who were happy to do both (such as Vernon Turner, the man who originally broke the team's punt-return drought). Those __ candidates are listed below; we're asking you to review their qualifications and vote for one of them in the poll to the right. Your votes will determine who makes the team at the position, although the results will not be announced until the entire team is revealed near the beginning of the 2004 season.
This is 14th installment of our ongoing effort to determine the Greatest Buccaneers at every position. Already you've selected two cornerbacks, two defensive ends, two defensive tackles, two outside linebackers, two inside linebackers, two safeties, two offensive tackles, two guards, two running backs, one center, one tight end, one punter and one special teams ace. Still to come in June and July: wide receiver, kicker and quarterback. To review the positions discussed so far, visit the All-Time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team home page.
(Editor's Note: In the descriptions below, all career leaders are considered to be among players with at least 20 career punt or kickoff returns.)
All-Time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team: Nominated Kick Returners
The nominations are presented in alphabetical order. Only a player's accomplishments with the Buccaneers are considered, and only kick and punt return achievements are included in the nominations.