Buccaneers.com's Scott Smith takes a look at the best player in Buccaneers history to wear uniform numbers 71-80.
It's time for the big men to battle it out in the trenches.
In the NFL, offensive linemen are allowed to wear jersey numbers in the 50s, 60s and 70s, while defensive linemen can pick from that range plus the 90s. For practical matters, though, the 50s are usually dominated by linebackers and the 60s are most commonly given to offensive linemen. Many defensive linemen favor the 90s.
Where the offensive and defensive linemen most commonly meet is in the 70s. That's not especially true of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' current roster, where offensive linemen crowd out the whole scene until defensive lineman Patrick O'Connor sneaks in at number 79. But it certainly has been true in the past, as the Bucs' first 45 seasons have seen plenty of productive defenders wear jerseys in the 70s. Some of those names you'll see below.
And some of them won't make it on the list because they're going up against more decorated offensive linemen. At least we'll have some variety. In our last countdown, from 61-70, it was all offensive players except for one gigantic exception. In the 10 spots below, it's basically 50-50.
So let's get to it. Some of these choices from 1-99 are inevitably going to be tougher than others, either due to too many good candidates or too few solid choices, so we're also noting the "level of difficulty" of each choice.
71: DT Santana Dotson
It's always good to get one of the hardest questions on a test over with first. And this is a perfect example of the OL/DL clash noted above. In one corner you have Santana Dotson and Michael Bennett. In the other you have Jerry Wunsch and Kerry Jenkins. Wunsch started 46 games at right tackle for the Buccaneers, most of them from 1999-2001, which were all playoff seasons. Jenkins had a shorter tenure but was the starting left guard for the Super Bowl team and a tough guy who played through a fracture in his leg that season. Wunsch actually compiled the most AV (as calculated by Pro Football Reference) of all four of these players. Despite that, to us it comes down to Dotson versus Bennett. Both made their mark with their first four seasons in Tampa before going on to long and fruitful careers elsewhere, including a Super Bowl championship for each. Dotson is the only Buccaneers rookie ever to hit double digits in sacks, with 10 in 1992, when he was playing with a chip on his shoulder after sliding into the fifth round of the draft. Bennett's top sack season for Tampa Bay was 9.0 in 2012. Dotson is higher on the Bucs' career sack list, with 23.0 to Bennett's 15.0.
Level of Difficulty: 8.
Wunsch has a legitimate beef with this pick, but both Dotson and Bennett come more quickly to mind when the 71 jersey is mentioned.
72: DL Chidi Ahanotu
It's a little easier to side with the defense on this one. Perhaps the best sixth-round pick in team history (though not quite the best former sixth-rounder to call himself a Buccaneer), Ahanotu wore 90 as a rookie in 1993 and 95 during a brief second stint in 2004 but still logged 97 games and 95 starts in number 72. He ranks 17th in team history in AV, essentially equal to Mike Alstott. Ahanotu is sixth on the franchise's all-time sack list with 34.5 QB takedowns, including 10 in 1997 for the Bucs' breakthrough playoff team. We labeled him a "DL" above because he was capable of playing both tackle and end and did so at various times in his Bucs career. The competition here isn't exactly light, either. Ray Snell was a first-round guard who had a good four-year run in the early '80s. Rob Taylor remains one of the best undrafted additions in team history and he started 91 games over eight seasons. And the 72 jersey was worn by Roman Oben during the 2002 Super Bowl season.
Level of Difficulty: 3.
Ahanotu didn't seriously risk losing this spot but Taylor in particular deserve close consideration.
73: T/DE Charley Hannah
In 1978, Hannah started 14 games at defensive end for the Buccaneers. In 1979, he started 14 games at right offensive tackle for the Buccaneers. How cool is that? The Bucs drafted Hannah in the third round in 1977 as an end and he played two seasons on defense before making the switch. He didn't change his number when changing sides, and ended up making a total of 61 starts in Tampa before an extensive second NFL chapter with the Raiders. Hannah was the primary starting right tackle for all three of Tampa Bay's first three playoff teams. All of that said, this is no slam dunk. Ron Heller, a very astute fourth-round pick in 1984, followed shortly after Hannah and he distinguished himself well with 56 starts over four seasons, though he was eager to leave Tampa's struggling franchise after that. Frank Middleton later started for much of his three seasons at guard for the Bucs in the 73 jersey, though he also started against them in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Level of Difficulty: 5.
From an AV standpoint, Hannah and Heller are nearly tied. Hannah got their first, though, and Heller didn't do enough to knock him out of the top spot. Brad Culpepper also wore 73 during his first two seasons with the Bucs, but more on him later.
View photos of wide receiver Mike Evans in the new Buccaneers uniforms.
74: T Paul Gruber
Gruber is recognized as one of the best players in franchise history but his jersey number has never been retired, officially or unofficially. That makes 74 one of the toughest acts to follow on the Bucs' jersey list. If Ali Marpet, who increasingly looks like he'll be remembered as a Buccaneer great too, was worried about making a number his own (he surely was not worried about that), he couldn't have chosen a tougher hill than 74. Gruber was inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium in 2012, just the fourth man chosen for that elite group. The fourth-overall pick in the 1988 draft, he stepped right into the starting lineup in 1988 and didn't miss a single start in his first five seasons. Excuse us, we meant to say he didn't miss a single offensive snap in his first five seasons. No one in team history has matched that iron man streak to start a career, though Donovan Smith actually came quite close. Gruber was a star performer on some bad teams, but he played long enough to be rewarded as part of the franchise turnaround in the late '90s. His last game was the 1999 regular-season finale that clinched a first-round bye for the Bucs; a broken leg took him out and led to an emotional postgame locker room scene at Soldier Field.
Level of Difficulty: 3.
It was never going to be anybody but Gruber here, but Marpet might one day make a case. Gene Sanders would have also been a worthy choice in a non-Gruber reality.
75: G Davin Joseph
The defensive linemen stared this set on a run and then Charley Hannah bridged the gap by playing on both sides of the line, and now the offensive linemen are making a run. The defenders never had a chance in this jersey because if it hadn't been for Joseph this would have easily been Dave Reavis. One of the best picks the fledgling franchise made in the 1976 Veteran Allocation Draft, Reavis was the starting left tackle for most of 1977-83, opening 86 games, including all 16 in the 1979 breakthrough campaign. After Reavis, the most notable number 75 for the Buccaneers over the next two decades was Eric Curry, but Curry was a notable first-round draft bust. Not a first-round bust: Davin Joseph, who was something of a surprise pick by the Bucs at number 23 in 2006. Joseph wasted no time taking over at right guard and was in the Pro Bowl by the end of his third season. He would eventually start 99 of the 100 games in which he played.
Level of Difficulty: 5.
Joseph ranks 28th in team history in AV and has a pretty comfortable lead over Reavis in that category but we can't ignore the first long-term left tackle in Bucs history.
76: DT David Logan
The Buccaneers first began play in 1976 so it's fitting that the number 76 jersey got off to a really good start for a solid decade. First there was Dave Pear, who was another astute pick in the Veteran Allocation Draft. Pear started for three seasons at defensive tackle and was the first Buccaneer ever to be selected for the Pro Bowl, in 1978. The Bucs probably didn't expect much from Logan when they selected him the 12th round, number 307 overall, in 1979. But Logan made the team, inherited number 76 and by his second season was a starter and a key running mate for Lee Roy Selmon. He had an incredible nose for the end zone for a nose tackle, scoring four touchdowns on three fumble recoveries and one interception. Logan ended up starting 103 games, which is nothing short of an incredible return for a 12th-round pick. He also spent a long time on as a broadcaster on the Buccaneers Radio Network. The 76 jersey has had some very good years since, turned in by Scott Dill, John Wade, Jeremy Zuttah and currently Donovan Smith.
Level of Difficulty: 7.
Though we didn't spend much time on his competitors, Logan has a lot of suitors to this spot. That's particularly true of Smith, who has a very good chance of taking it away if he extends his Buccaneer career beyond a contract that goes through 2021. Smith is already closing in in AV (51 to 43).
77: DT Brad Culpepper
Culpepper's split between the 73 and 77 jerseys might have cost him the lead at both spots if he hadn't switched after two years and eight sacks, but here he comes in comfortably ahead of the other prominent player with that jersey, defensive lineman Bill Kollar. Kollar wore the jersey from 1977-81 and made 35 starts. At this point, he's better known as one of the longest-tenured coaches in the NFL, a vocation in which he has spent more than three decades. Culpepper came to the Bucs as a waiver claim in 1994 but his career really took off when the Buccaneers drafted Warren Sapp in 1995. Those two became an often-unstoppable duo in the middle of the line, and Culpepper 23.5 sacks from 1997-99 one on of the NFL's best defenses.
Level of Difficulty: 2.
It's good that Culpepper switched to 77 and did most of his damage there because the pickings would otherwise be somewhat slim. Other than Kollar, defensive tackle Mark Wheeler in the early '90s stands out a bit.
View photos of tight end Rob Gronkowski in the new Buccaneers uniforms.
78: DE John Cannon
This one is a very tough two-person battle between Cannon and Marcus Jones, who came in as a first-round defensive tackle but later made a greater impact at end. This is Cannon's greater longevity versus Jones's higher heights, and it's very, very close. Cannon was a Buc for nine years (1982-90) and he played in 122 games with 73 starts. He finished with 22.0 sacks. Jones had six years with the team but only made four starts over the first three before switching to end. After that, he had 23 sacks over the next three years, including a high of 13.0 in 2000 that earned him a lucrative new contract. Unfortunately, his career lasted just one more year. So the two ended up with nearly identical sack totals, but Cannon's longevity has him well above Jones on the AV list.
Level of Difficulty: 7.
This is practically even and Jones might deserve more credit for his 13-sack season, which ranks sixth in team history.
79: DE Reuben Davis
Like Logan, this is one of the best late-round picks in franchise history. The Buccaneers snagged Davis in the ninth round in 1988 and he stepped immediately into the starting lineup as a rookie. Over four seasons he would start 55 games, recording 10.5 sacks in that span but also excelling against the run. Frankly, he doesn't have much competition at this spot, especially because Steve Wilson abandoned it for number 50 after two years. Unless you have a particular soft spot for Sean Mahan or Jamon Meredith, this one is pretty easy.
Level of Difficulty: 2.
It's pretty easy.
80: WR Lawrence Dawsey
It's hard to believe that a number like 80 was essentially a wasteland for the Buccaneers' first decade and a half. The most prominent number 80 before Dawsey was…Frank Pillow? Dawsey was a third-round pick in 1991 and he immediately burst onto the scene with 55 catches for 818 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. He had another 776 yards in 1992 but was largely hampered by injuries in 1993. He came back with 673 yards in 1994. Dawsey finished his Bucs career with 206 catches for 2,842 yards. As it turns out, those numbers are nearly identical to the 221 catches and 2,936 yards that Michael Clayton had for the Bucs from 2004-09. A first-round pick in 2004, Clayton had an even bigger rookie season, with 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns, but he never topped 500 yards in a season again. AV doesn't help; they both finished with a total of 24. Dawsey was the first prominent number 80 in team history and we'll say he barely holds off Clayton.
Level of Difficulty: 7.
As a third-round pick who made good, Dawsey inherently looks better than a first-round pick who failed to deliver on his first-season promise. That may not be fair, as this is a virtual dead heat.