No tale is too tall when it comes to Buccaneers' humbling history
By Martin Fennelly
TAMPA TIMES TRIBUNE
SAN DIEGO - It is one of the great old Bucs stories. It goes back
years, to the beginning. Now the Bucs are in the Super Bowl. What
better time to look back at our fighting sons of orange? The dark
ages still make us smile.
There's one story you always hear.
The team was holding its first training camp. A tight end from the
University of Miami named Ricou deShaw, breathing hard, asked a Bucs
coach if he could be excused for a moment. He needed to use the
restroom. The coach nodded. DeShaw headed off.
He never was seen again.
Old Bucs tell it that way. Hear the one about the guy who went to
the bathroom and never came back? Yeah, Ricou deShaw, that was him.
Ricou deShaw. The smoking gun.
He is part of the bedrock in Bucs history. The man who walked away
from 0-26. The man who shunned the franchise that turned into an
overnight success just 27 years later.
If only it were true.
"It isn't," Ricou deShaw said.
Ricou deShaw is 49 and lives in the Florida Keys, where he fishes
when not working for an engineering firm. A few years back, he
spotted a newspaper story topped with the Ricou story. Ricou wrote a
letter in response.
"I think you should be aware of the real story," the letter said.
Ricou deShaw stated that he had sustained a back injury during that
first Bucs camp. He says the training staff said he was fine. Ricou
didn't agree, called his father and left camp for a medical
facility, where he was told he should never play football again. He
never did. His letter included his latest MRI.
"I NEVER walked off the field on the pretense of going to the
restroom," the letter stated.
Oh, well, there is plenty of Bucs history without the legend of
Ricou. There are a lot of real stories. Like 0-26. Like Bo Jackson
and 5-dash-2. Like John McKay's one-liners. Like Mr. C's orange
jacket, the franchise's answer to Dracula's cape.
True: The Bucs went 0-14 their first season. They were 0-12 in
their second season before winning against New Orleans and St.
Louis. Both New Orleans coach Hank Stram and St. Louis coach Don
Coryell were fired.
True: Sam Wyche once had the Bucs practice halftime.
True: The Bucs once allowed the Jets to score an uncontested
touchdown to get the ball back and give James Wilder a shot at a
yardage record. After the game, outraged Jets quarterback Ken
O'Brien challenged John McKay to a fight. McKay said "Let's go."
They never did. Oh, yeah:
Wilder didn't get the record.
True: The Bucs were getting killed at halftime when offensive
tackle Ron Heller told his teammates not to quit. Happening by, Bucs
coach Ray Perkins heard Heller using the word "quit." "Quit!"
He attacked Heller. Perkins broke a thumb trying to punch Heller in
the head. Heller was wearing his helmet.
True: McKay once broke a knuckle hitting a chalkboard at halftime.
True: Bucs coach Richard Williamson asked whether he had
spelled "MRI" correctly.
True: A Bucs trainer once cut off the fingertip of Alvin Harper.
True: Buc Ira Gordon complained to McKay: "Coach, I got the X-ray,
but I don't feel better."
True: The Bucs made Bo Jackson the first pick in the draft,
despite the fact a source close to Jackson -- Jackson -- said he
wouldn't play in Tampa Bay. At a news conference, Hugh Culverhouse
recited Dionne Warwick's "That's What Friends Are For" and vowed
to "keep smilin', keep shinin'."
True: A writer asked John McKay about his team's execution. McKay
"I'm in favor of it."
True: The Bucs went to overtime at New England. The Bucs won the
coin toss, but Ray Perkins elected to kick to New England. The
Patriots drove, then kicked the winning field goal.
True: Gay Culverhouse, Hugh's daughter, was once in the team's
front office. Attending a game in Green Bay, Gay exclaimed how proud
she was that thousands of Bucs fans had made the trip wearing Bucs
orange. A team official broke the news: "Those are hunting jackets."
True: The Bucs had a kicker named Bill Capece who missed a field
goal and an extra point in a loss. He was cut. "Capece is kaput,"
True: That first season, the Bucs lost 42-0 at Pittsburgh. A
newspaper photo showed a Buc named Ed McAleney smiling with 42-0 on
the scoreboard in the background. The headline: "A Real Laugher."
McAleney was released the next day.
True: McKay came in the locker room to make a short
announcement: "The bus leaves in an hour. Those of you who need to
shower, do so."
True: The Bucs drafted the wrong player because the team's
representative in New York -- an equipment manager -- handed the
wrong card in. Sean Farrell was picked instead of Booker Reese. The
Bucs scrambled, trading a No. 1 pick from the next year to get Reese
in the second round. Of course, Sean Farrell worked out fine and
Booker Reese was a bust.
True: Sean Farrell made a holiday appearance in Orlando. Someone
asked him what he wanted for Christmas. "To get the hell out of
Tampa Bay," Farrell said.
True: After dozens of interceptions, the Bucs discovered Vinny
Testaverde was color blind.
True: The Bucs tried to hire Bill Parcells and ... well, you know.
True: John McKay was holding a team meeting. "Gentlemen, losing
starts with mistakes," he said, "losing starts with turnovers,
losing starts with ..." McKay looked over at offensive lineman
Howard Fest. He was fast asleep. "Fest!" McKay screamed. "Where does
Howard Fest spoke. "Right here in Tampa Bay, coach."
It all happened.
But Ricou didn't.
Ricou deShaw was a Buc free agent for a month, before a game was
He has no idea how the story about him got started. Nor did he know
it had taken on such a prominent place in Bucs history.
"I guess lore takes over," deShaw said. "You hear one thing and it
gets passed along. I hate to spoil the story, but it didn't happen
that way. I still feel a little bit a part of Bucs history. But I
never did say I was going to the bathroom and didn't come back."
The Tribune regrets the error.
"Go Bucs," Ricou said.