TAMPA - What do you think of when I mention the name Warren Sapp?
Redefined the under tackle position in the NFL?
QB Killa? (his website)
Mouth of the South?
Hall of Famer?
Royal pain in the @#$?
Depending on what day you engaged with ol' #99, just about every one of the above mentioned is true.
Covering him for as many years as I did, I just couldn't figure him out.
Fact is, he didn't want anyone to get that close.
Maybe former teammates Derrick Brooks and Brad Culpepper broke the barrier. That's cool. To each their own.
What I remember most was his stare. His eyes could tell a story. His expressions were genuine. You knew where you stood.
Then today, when he was introduced as the fifth Buccaneer to be inducted into the Ring of Honor, I saw a proud man, with a degree of humility; accept his place in Bucs history.
It will be shared this year with his induction into Pro Football's Hall of Fame.
I think to really understand Warren you have to go back to Plymouth, Florida where he grew up. You have to understand it wasn't far from a country club experience. It was rough, at times it was dangerous. You grew up fending for yourself, protecting your turf. Trusting anyone was not an easy thing to do.
Warren said today that he and Brooks were a couple of Florida boys with "chips on their shoulders."
I asked him afterwards what did that mean.
Coming from little, trying to prove yourself, trying to make a better life for the mom who raised you. He has, with impunity. In July, he will be enshrined in Canton.
However, in November, an even bigger event will take place.
Along with his induction into the Bucs Ring of Honor, Sapp's 99 jersey will be retired.
"That's even a bigger deal," Sapp said to me today. He meant it.
For all the times I marveled at his play, for all the times that we didn't see eye to eye, having his jersey retired meant more because it symbolized not just him, but an era in Buccaneer history he is so proud of.
He'll see that jersey and remember the teammates he lined up with. He'll remember the teammates he brought a franchise up from the ashes with. He'll remember the teammates he won a Super Bowl with.
Perhaps now, most of all, he can kick that chip off his shoulder.