© St. Petersburg Times, published January 19, 2003
Hall of Fame defensive end Lee Roy Selmon was the leader of the Bucs when the team made the NFC Championship Game in 1979. Here are his perspectives on the Bucs today, the University of South Florida, amateur athletics and the great upsets of all time.
RM: How do you digest what's happening with the Bucs today?
LS: It's exciting. It's one of those rare moments that happen in the course of a franchise, to be one victory away from a shot at the Super Bowl. It's history that is yet to be written.
RM: You are part of that history.
LS: I always will be, and I'm very thankful and humbled to be a part of that history, to have been there on the ground floor. You can't go back and undo what we did or rewrite our history. But I look at what's happening now and think this, too, can't be rewritten. There have only been three championship games for the Bucs. This is historic.
RM: So you're a GM and you have the first pick of the draft. Between two players in their prime, whom would you pick: Warren Sapp or Lee Roy Selmon?
LS: That's a good one. I don't know. You would have to look at several factors. You'll have to work with your coach and determine what schemes are going to be used and who fits better. Warren and I came out of two different schemes and two different times. We were a 3-4 defensive set. He's from a 4-3 defensive set. Things have changed and coaches have moved more toward the 4-3 side.
RM: You're ducking my question.
LS: I'll defer to the coach.
RM: You were the image of the team's past; he's the image of the team's present. Different times, different personalities. How are you similar?
LS: In the end, they'll say this: We both gave it everything we had on the field. We both had a passion to win and a desire to do everything you can to make the team successful. We both thought more about team goals than individual goals. For me, it was all about trying to get to the Super Bowl, and it's the same for Warren. He has the proper perspective and I'm proud of that.
RM: Do you envy the amount of money pro athletes make today?
LS: No, because that's the price the market is setting. If I was playing today, I would want the market value, too. I would demand it.
RM: You're the only Buccaneer in the Hall of Fame. Who else is going to be with you?
LS: Warren and Derrick Brooks are in. John Lynch has had that kind of career; he's in, too. I think Mike Alstott is making a strong case for himself. I tell you what, I would like to see Doug Williams in the Hall. He was an awfully talented player that I enjoyed playing with. I hated to see things not work out for him, and he had to move on. But he was a winner all the way around. But I want company, a whole bunch. It's time for some more.
RM: Define opportunity.
LS: Opportunity is a rare entity. Because it's rare, it's something you have to do your best to soak in. You'll likely get a handful of them through life and you should not be afraid of them.
RM: Sometimes we don't know when we're staring at an opportunity.
LS: That's true. They could be surprising at some times, but they are always positive. They present chances to do something positive.
RM: What has happened to USF in the past 10 years?
LS: It really has exploded and grown tremendously since I arrived here in 1993. There's been an unbelievable change in just the physical makeup of the campus. New construction has taken place and continues to take place everywhere. I see an increase in the student body population. I see an increase in spirit around the campus. It's beginning to look more like a traditional college, moving farther and farther away from that commuter image. As more parking lots are being replaced by buildings, I expect that new image to continue growing.
RM: Predict where your football program will be in five years.
LS: I believe the trend will continue such as it has.
RM: But what has happened here was unprecedented.
LS: It was, but I see the same fan base moving up just as it has. I see our average attendance moving from where we are now, at 25,000, to about 50,000. I would like to see it doubled in five years. It's hard to predict, but given the type of dedication and effort that staff and players have put behind this program, I'm very optimistic.
RM: But becoming a big-time program means big-time problems.
LS: We have an opportunity to establish a standard with our student-athletes that when you come here, there are certain standards of behavior you will be expected to uphold. We talk about character, discipline, commitment and academics. Only then, we talk about athletics.
RM: But those values aren't conducive to consistent winning.
LS: I disagree. I think they are conducive. If I was just a fan, I would look at wins and losses and that would be it. But I have to look at the faces of young men and women and know they will be contributing members of our community one day, so I have an obligation to get them prepared. I do believe that when they become better students, they become better athletes. They may not realize it, but if you can get them to embrace that they'll have a better experience. It helped me to become a better athlete. I know that's against the grain, but it's what I believe in.
RM: Last week, Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said the day will come when the NCAA will have to pay athletes or there will be a boycott.
LS: Maybe the ones who are going to make it at the next level will take that chance. But there's a lot who won't make it.
RM: But paying college players?
LS: Yeah, well, it'll be tough to do. If you pay student-athletes, you'll only have a handful of schools who can pay and only a handful of student-athletes they can pay it to. There'll be all kinds of possible lawsuits.
RM: But you haven't ruled it out?
LS: No. If there are massive boycotts until something gets done, then I don't know how it would turn out. The purpose of going to college is getting a degree. Look at the numbers; very few are going to play pro sports.
RM: How else would you get LeBron James to college?
LS: He's a unique talent. I think the NCAA would have to look at how they would deal with that special type of athlete. There are some conversations going on now about that, conversations dealing with amateurism that may loosen up things a little bit for those type of athletes who seem destined to move to the next level. It's a changing world, a changing society, and it's no different in college athletics.
RM: As a restaurateur, what's the one thing that irks you when you go to a restaurant?
LS: Bad service is not good. You can't keep people waiting too long before serving them. The appetizer plate has to be moved as soon as the person is finished. When the entree plate is finished, it has to go quickly. Those are things patrons remember and they'll determine if they come back.
RM: Why does Hollywood assume that aliens are coming to get us?
LS: I don't know; maybe it's some kind of fatalistic attitude we have had.
RM: And why do they always have one big head and two huge dark eyes? Why not one eye in the middle?
LS: It's true, it's the same way every time. Creative people in that realm have locked into an image we've seen before, and they continue to feed us.
RM: What do you think aliens look like?
LS: I don't believe in them.
RM: It's ethnocentric of humans to believe we're the only intelligent life form in the universe.
LS: Until I hear otherwise, I'm not believing.
RM: As upsets go, how big was Sitting Bull's win over General Custer?
LS: I have never thought of it like that, but I guess that would be a big one. It certainly was unexpected, against the odds.
RM: It's like Custer's cavalry was supposed to win by 40 but lost by 40.
LS: I suppose that was a huge upset. You see, there were tremendous expectations on Custer. No one could beat Custer. He was ranked No. 1.
RM: He probably didn't watch enough film of Sitting Bull's crew.
LS: Probably. I don't know what his preparation and approach were, but obviously the game plan didn't work.
RM: What about David over Goliath? Biggest upset of all time?
LS: No doubt. The ultimate upset. How the little guy like that could go out there and knock off the big guy with a slingshot and some stones; no one would have believed in David. No one would have bet on David. That's what upsets are about, the unbelievable.
RM: But David believed.
LS: He was courageous. He believed in something bigger. Plus, he had a game plan. He didn't just go in without one. I guess that's what upsets are built on, the spirit of David, the belief that even against the greatest of foes, against the greatest odds, if you believe, and only you have to believe, you can pull off the upset. Sports is the same thing. Football is the same thing. It's about the spirit of David. But you have to believe.