Bucs to retire Warren Sapp's No. 99
The team formally announced Thursday that the four-time All-Pro defensive tackle will be honored on Nov. 11 at Raymond James Stadium, a little more than three months after Sapp is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Sapp will join Lee Roy Selmon, John McKay, Jimmie Giles and Paul Gruber in having his name displayed in the club's Ring of Honor, which was created in 2009. The club also said Sapp's No. 99 jersey will be retired during halftime of that night's nationally televised game against the Miami Dolphins.
"His days on the field were headlined by incredible passion, overwhelming talent and, of course, his larger-than-life personality," Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said. "His accolades and accomplishments peak for themselves."
The 40-year-old played nine seasons of a 13-year career with Tampa Bay, redefining what's known as the under tackle position and helping transform the Bucs from a laughingstock of the NFL into a Super Bowl winner.
Sapp was the 12th overall pick of the 1995 draft, part of a class that also brought linebacker Derrick Brooks to a franchise once jokingly referred to as the "Yucs."
"It's unbelievable. I couldn't dream of anything like this," Sapp told a packed auditorium that included his mother, aunt, ex-teammates and former coach Tony Dungy, who arrived in 1996 -- Sapp's second as a pro -- and challenged him and Brooks to "chase Joe Greene and Jack Ham" and become the best players they could be.
Together with safety John Lynch, Sapp and Brooks formed the heart of a defense that not only reshaped the image of the Bucs but ranked among the best in the NFL for nearly a decade.
"I want to thank anybody that had anything to do with," Sapp said. "Anybody who put up with my wildness, that overlarge personality and this big ol' mouth of mine."
Tampa Bay ended a stretch of 12 consecutive seasons with double-digit losses by going 7-9 in Sapp's rookie year, made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years under Dungy in 1997, then reached the NFC championship game two years later, with Sapp posting 12 1-2 sacks and being selected the NFL defensive player of the year.
Sapp had a franchise-record 16 1-2 sacks the following season and helped Tampa Bay win it's only Super Bowl title during the 2002 season. The Bucs have not won a playoff game since.
He holds the franchise record for sacks with 77 in nine seasons with Tampa Bay from 1995 to 2003. He played four seasons with the Oakland Raiders before retiring with 96 1-2 career sacks.
A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Sapp was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and on Aug. 3 he will join Selmon as the only player who spent the majority of his career with the Buccaneers enshrined in Canton.
"They said Tampa was a place where careers came to die," Sapp said. "That's a lie. Tampa's a destination. Tampa's a place where champions live. And we all did it together. I wouldn't trade it for a day in any other uniform, any other place in the world."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press