By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001
He is Tampa Bay sports icon Lee Roy Selmon, Hall of Fame defensive end, overall good guy and new athletic director at the University of South Florida. At 46, here are his thoughts on USF, paying college players, barbecue, movies and water safety.
RM: Do you realize the day will come when you'll have to fire a coach?
LRS: I look at those types of situations, and all situations in jobs, pretty much as performance-based. You pretty much determine your own fate.
RM: Where do you want to take USF?
LRS: We want to keep thriving toward becoming an elite program around the country. That's not something that will happen overnight and I don't know how long it's going to take to happen because there are so many intangibles.
RM: Should college players get paid?
LRS: No. It's not affordable.
RM: But the common perception out there is that schools are making money. LRS: Maybe just one of them will be able to afford something like that but not all of them can. To do that you have to be equitable among all student athletes.
RM: But you do understand why youngsters turn pro that early?
LRS: Certainly, the economics have changed dramatically. If I was 18 or 19 years old and someone offered me that kind of money, it would be hard for me to turn down that kind of money. If my son was offered that kind of money, I would still tell him, "Hey, your education is still very important to you. But if you do leave, I will very much encourage that you get back. In the end, that's going to be more valuable than the money."
RM: Best book you ever read? And the Bible doesn't count.
LRS: I read a book a long time ago, called Black Like Me (by John Howard Griffin). It kind of helped people understand each other. To me, that's what life is all about. If you can better understand one another, then you find yourselves working together so much better. Then, a lot of the old walls come tumbling down. I thought that book kind of illustrated that.
RM: You a movie guy?
LRS: I go to the movies, but I tend to enjoy the popcorn and soda more.
RM: But, there must be a favorite movie.
LRS: I'm a Denzel Washington fan and I liked the movie Glory. It was based on a true story, it was well put together and very entertaining.
RM: Come clean, do you really know about barbecue?
LRS: I know a thing or two about barbecue.
RM: Who makes the barbecue at home, you or the wife? And don't lie because she'll read this. LRS: I do it.
RM: What's the trick to good barbecue?
LRS: You have to start off with a good piece of meat. Then you season it up the right way. You can marinate for a period of time. I don't get too complicated. Some salt, pepper, some seasonings. Then you have to grill it the right kind of way.
RM: What's the skill of the grill?
LRS: You don't want to use too much oil to get the fire started. You want it to heat up in a natural type of way. Then a little wood and get some smoke, not too much smoke. What happens most times is people get impatient. They're grilling out, start late and then they are in a rush to grill things and they just throw it right in the fire. Take your time.
RM: Why the giant portions at your restaurant?
LRS: We don't want anyone to leave hungry. When I was growing up, when we left the table we were full and ready to go. So we want everybody to enjoy a good meal and feel like they've got a good value for their money.
RM: Roberta Flack?
LRS: Wow, one of my favorites. Great singer. I love her.
RM: The disco era?
LRS: The '70's. A lot of change was going on. I remember looking and thinking, I can't do those dances.
RM: You got any 8-track tapes at home?
LRS: I've got some, somewhere. If I could repair, I would play it. The tapes would probably just crumble.
RM: You ever own a velvet poster?
LRS: No. Never got into that.
RM: You look a lot lighter than your 250-pound playing weight, what do you weigh now?
LRS: I'm about 250, right where I was. But it's proportioned differently.
RM: Your son (Lee Roy Jr.) is a big boy, can you take him?
LRS: Psychologically, I can take him.
RM: What's it like to have an expressway named after you?
LRS: It's humbling. It's different. But I have a fear about it.
RM: Which is?
LRS: Getting a ticket on it.
RM: Should you pay the toll?
LRS: I do pay the toll.
RM: That ain't right. You should have a lifetime pass.
LRS: You guys have to work on that. I can't ask for it myself.
RM: What's something you're terrified of?
LRS: I actually live on a lake, but I'm pretty fearful of water. When I'm going out into the water, if I could get three or four life jackets on I would. I can't call what I do swimming. I'm very safety conscious when it comes to the water. My greatest fear would be to fall out of the boat without my life jacket. I'm terrified of the water.