Garnet and Gold Bucs

The Florida State Seminoles have sent dozens of players to the NFL ranks. But the program's most impressive legacy occurred after the 2002 season, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers captured Super Bowl XXXVII. The Bucs, once the NFL's most hapless franchise, were showered by red and pewter confetti. Funny, but from where I sat, the tint also looked Garnet and Gold.

Seldom has one school contributed so heavily to a Super Bowl championship. The Florida State influence was -- and still is -- evident in Tampa Bay. That's the feeling I had after reading a terrific new book, "Tales From the Bucs Sideline,'' co-authored by Chris Harry of The Orlando Sentinel and Joey Johnston of The Tampa Tribune.

Take my word for it, this is a must-read for all Bucs fans.

Seminole fans, too.

You can read about the leadership of quarterback Brad Johnson, whose Pro Bowl season was a major impetus behind Tampa Bay's championship.

There's the dominance of linebacker Derrick Brooks, the talented and humble former 'Nole who was the NFL's defensive player of the year. And, of course, there's free safety Dexter Jackson, the Quincy native who achieved his ultimate dream and was chosen Super Bowl most valuable player.

There's even a section on Warrick Dunn, who brought a needed dimension of speed to the Bucs from 1997 to 2001.

The book ($19.95, Sports Publishing, L.L.C.) already is available at leading bookstores in the Tampa Bay area and on Amazon.com.

Chris and Joey told me they'd be happy to personally sign the book and offer it at a reduced rate for subscribers to TheTerritory.org. For more information, send an e-mail to joeyjay1259@verizon.net. (Better act now, while supplies last!)

After spending many years in Tampa myself, I know first-hand about the passion of Bucs fans. For so many years, the Bucs struggled on the field, but they were followed by a loyal group of supporters. With the recent success, they have gained new fans everywhere. You might even call them ''Tallahassee's Team.''

"Florida State fans are naturally going to follow their former players in the NFL, so there's a natural tie-in with the Bucs,'' says Harry, the Sentinel's Bucs beat writer since 2000. "Those Seminole players have become great stories. Nobody predicted Brad Johnson would be this effective when he came out of FSU.

Many teams thought Derrick Brooks was too small, but he became one of the NFL's best players.

"You could almost make the argument that without those FSU players, the Bucs don't win that Super Bowl. That's how important the Seminoles have become to Tampa Bay's NFL team.''

And that importance can be seen throughout the book. Among the most interesting tidbits:

* How Brad Johnson's unwavering spirit and work ethic were developed from an early age.

* Why Derrick Brooks inspires so much respect from his teammates.

* Warrick Dunn's persistent battle with a too-small stereotype in the NFL and how nothing could hold back his gigantic heart.

* Dexter Jackson's night of nights, when he became only the second ex-FSU player (along with Fred Biletnikoff) to capture the Super Bowl MVP award.

This book is an easy read. You'll love the hilarious anecdotes, profiles of all the key players and the inside stories you've never heard. It's all here, along with a comprehensive look at the entire Bucs' history, from John McKay to Jon Gruden, from 0-and-26 to the Super Bowl title, from the obscure players to Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon.

"One thing we found was there had never really been a book about this franchise's history,'' says Johnston, a native of Tampa.

"All those years of losing really made the Super Bowl something to truly appreciate for Bucs fans. We think the fans who have been there since the beginning will really enjoy looking back through all the memories.''

The most cherished memory, of course, was winning the Super Bowl.

FSU's program was a big winner, too. Because when you write the book on how Tampa Bay's franchise was transformed from woeful to wonderful, the Seminoles almost deserve their own chapter. That's why "Tales From the Bucs Sideline'' is definitely for you, FSU followers.


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