(On Dec. 8-9, the Buccaneers will assemble most of the players and coaches from their 2002 Super Bowl Championship Team for a 10-year reunion. The '02 Bucs will gather at team headquarters on Saturday, Dec. 8, for a private event, then take the field to be recognized during halftime of the current team's game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Dec. 9. Buccaneers.com is celebrating this much-anticipated reunion with a 10-day countdown of articles relating to the 2002 team, including a series of "Where Are They Now?" features. Up now is Joe Jurevicius, who led the Bucs with 78 receiving yards in the Super Bowl and was an inspirational figure for the team throughout the playoffs.)
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII in January of 2003, it was Joe Jurevicius who appeared on the cover of the next Sports Illustrated, stiff-arming an Oakland Raider as he finished a 33-yard gain on a crossing route.
That play was Tampa Bay's longest from scrimmage in the Super Bowl, and it was important, setting up one of Keenan McCardell's two first-half touchdown catches. The SI capture of it, however, is not the most iconic image of Jurevicius that would play in the mental highlight reel of a Buccaneer fan. Most will remember far more fondly his improbable 71-yard gallop a week earlier in Philadelphia, the play that would inspire radio man Gene Deckerhoff's exclamation, "You go, Joe! You go!"
Jurevicius' heart was heavy but his feet were light as he pulled away from Eagles linebacker Barry Gardner on a short pass and just kept going up the left sideline, setting up a Mike Alstott touchdown that would give the Bucs a lead they wouldn't relinquish in the NFC Championship Game. Ten years later, as he prepares to join his 2002 teammates for a 10-year reunion and he looks back at that moment and that time in his life, Jurevicius can still feel both sides of that emotional moment.
Jurevicius had joined the Buccaneers in Philly just the night before the game, staying back in Tampa as long as possible to be with his wife, Meagan, and their newborn son, Michael. Michael had been born with a nerve degenerating disease and was in the middle of a three-month struggle that would end with his passing in March. The team wasn't sure if Jurevicius, their prolific third receiver along with Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell, would join them at all in Philadelphia, or if he would have the mental strength to play through his heartache.
"Obviously, I wish he was here, but the guy motivated me in a lot of ways that still go on right now," said Jurevicius this past week. "It's still all part of the memory for me. That was also one of the highlights of my life, having my first son and the fact that it was during the Super Bowl and we won a Super Bowl and we were going to get a ring. There were still a lot of positive things that came about. Obviously, the hardest part was losing him, and that will never get easy and I don't want it to get easy. But I do know that the toughness that he was showing at that time helped me show a little toughness also."
Jurevicius was a playoff hero, and he would end up playing 11 years in the NFL for the Buccaneers, Giants, Seahawks and Browns. That obviously left his family in good financial shape, which has allowed him to spend an enormous amount of time with his two daughters, eight-year-old Caroline and five-year-old Ava. He credits Michael with helping him get to this point in the life, and still visits him twice a week in a cemetery 20 minutes from the Jurevicius home in Cleveland.
"When you sit down and think about it, it just added to my memories," he said. "I feel like I persevered at the toughest time in my life and my wife's life. We have two healthy daughters right now, and I can tell you that thing I'm most appreciative about is Michael gave me the opportunity to spend every minute with them."
Jurevicius, who drops his daughters off at school every day, also has plenty of available time for other pursuits, one of which combines business with a desire to help those in need. Along with two friends, he has opened up a series of laundry mats in specific Ohio neighborhoods that can benefit from them the most. The locations offer all the amenities of an upscale laundry mat, from high-efficiency machines to flat-screen televisions to Wi-Fi, but they maintain very affordable prices and are opened in low-income areas where less scrupulous businessmen have taken advantage of the residents.
There are five such laundry mats so far, called "Spins," with a sixth one in construction, and he and his partners envision opening about a dozen in total.
"They are in the cities and they are in areas that are in desperate need of laundry mats," said Jurevicius. "A lot of the laundry mats that we target, they're dilapidated, and people are taking advantage of others. These are not your typical mom-and-pop laundry mats. We're literally bringing a high-end product to an area that deserves it. We're off the ground and we're running. There are really, really specific areas that we look at it. We're pretty proud of them."
Jurevicius wasn't at any of the Spins locations on Friday; in fact, he wasn't even in Cleveland. Rather he was in the midst of a 12-hour drive to Iowa, where he owns a farm. Former Browns teammate Steve Heiden spurred him to the purchase of the farm, which he also uses to hunt white-tail deer, and that is what has drawn him several states over on this particular occasion.
"Steve is one of my good buddies and he talked me into buying in Iowa and that's one of the greatest things I ever did," said Jurevicius. "I love it. It's a 12-hour drive for me but I feel like I'm in God's country when I go out to the farm. Eleven years of pro football gave me a lot of great opportunities and a lot of great opportunities. I have the farm and the business, I do some pregame shows for the Cleveland Browns…I stay busy."
Jurevicius also professes a lasting fondness for Florida, and the Bay area specifically. Cleveland is his original home town and obviously still important to him, but he thinks he'll eventually make a move back to the Sunshine State. In fact, he thinks that urge is likely to be rekindled next weekend, when he returns to the Bay area to join the rest of his former 2002 teammates for a reunion of the Buccaneers' Super Bowl Championship team.
More immediately, he expects the reunion to put a spark back in some of the relationships he formed during his days as a Buccaneer.
"The beautiful thing about this reunion is that it is going to rekindle a lot of relationships, a lot of the camaraderie that we had," said Jurevicius. "It's going to be funny to see how guys have changed physically and who's doing what and who's going where. But what I think this is going to do is get guys to stay in touch a little more.
"It hits you a little bit later, the importance of what you did. Obviously when you win that game you're in the moment and you understand it, but later you realize that these Super Bowls don't come by very often. To be one of 40-something teams that have done it shows you how special the group is. So I think you'll find a lot of guys exchanging phone numbers and addresses and telling each other to look them up when they're in town, and I think that's special. There's not one guy in that roster that somebody else on the team couldn't tell you at least one story about them, have one memory about them. That's what's so cool about that team and what was so special about that group."
The 2002 team will gather for a special event at Buccaneer headquarters on Saturday night, and then be recognized in a halftime ceremony during Tampa Bay's December 9 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Jurevicius' time as a Buccaneer was spent at old One Buccaneer Place, which he remembers fondly despite – or perhaps because of – its many shortcomings. He played his games at Raymond James Stadium, though, and is already anticipating what it will be like to step out on the turf in front of Buccaneer fans again.
"Goosebumps," he said. "Some guys like John Lynch and Keyshawn [Johnson] and Warren Sapp have such big names, and they're out there involved with the National Football League. But for a lot of people, when the game's done, it's done, and that can be a really hard transition. It will be my first time in the four years since I retired that I've stepped on a professional football field, and there's not one that I'd rather step on than in front of the Tampa Bay fans.
"There are so many great fans down there, and I get goose bumps right now just thinking about it."