Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Retro: The Buc stopped there but started here

With the first overall pick in the 1977 NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Ricky Bell. He became a member of a second year expansion team that had yet to win a game, losing all 14 in their first year. It was the shocking pick, considering he went before Tony Dorsett, the 1976 Heisman winner from Pittsburgh. Bell placed second to Dorsett in the Heisman balloting. But it wasn’t surprising, if you consider the Tampa coaching staff. John Mckay was the first head coach in Buccaneers history, and coached Ricky Bell for 3 years at USC, before ever accepting the NFL position. Bell and Mckay would go on to lose another 12 games, before Tampa ever won their first.

As a USC freshman, Ricky Bell played linebacker. He was eventually moved to fullback, spending a year blocking for Anthony Davis. By his junior year, he was a feature back, leading the nation in rushing, with 1,875 yards. In his senior campaign, he established a USC single game rushing record, with 347 yards against Washington State. The Heisman Trophy would have been the icing on the cake, if not for Dorsett's remarkable season performance.

Ricky played 4 seasons with the Bucs, showing his best in 1979, as Tampa achieved their first winning season. He led Tampa to their first franchise playoff victory, by romping over the Philadelphia Eagles for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the Bucs eventually fell to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game.

In 1984, The Trojans lost a member of the family, as the 29 year old Ricky Bell died of cardiac arrest, caused by dermatomyositis, a rare skin and muscle disease. Forever remembered, and forever a Trojan, Ricky Bell was inducted into the college football Hall of Fame in 2004.


*Heisman Runner up in 1976
*Third on the Heisman ballot in 1975
*347 rushing yards remains the current USC single game record
*Best NFL season-1979 (1,263 yards)
*College Football Hall of Fame (class of 2004)

No comments: