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Martin Fennelly Columns

Permanent honor fitting for Giles

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 10:08 AM
TAMPA -

Today is Induction Day for the Giles family. You see, it's for more than Jimmie. It's for his wife and their kids. It's for Jimmie's siblings, it's for everyone else coming from all over, including former teammates and coaches, to see Jimmie Giles welcomed to the Bucs Ring of Honor.

The thought of it has kept Jimmie up some nights the last few months.

It hit him again when he was talking with former Bucs quarterback Parnell Dickinson.

"Parnell Dickinson made a statement to me," Giles said. "He said, 'Man, do you know you're going to be in the stadium forever? I hadn't really thought about what he was saying."

Forever.

Jimmie Giles, the great Pro Bowl tight end, who was doing stuff tight ends do today long before they did it, who was part of the Bucs when they became winners in 1979 and on two more playoff teams after that.

Jimmie Giles, who used to spike the ball after scores, he confesses, because his coaches wouldn't get him the ball more. Jimmie would probably be enshrined in Canton if they had.

Jimmie Giles, a big, proud man who sometimes thinks about not being treated or compensated right by Hugh Culverhouse and who, like a lot of old Bucs, once thought he'd been forgotten.

Jimmie Giles, who caught a franchise-record 34 touchdowns and made 4,300 yards.

"My numbers were never padded -- they were hard-earned," Giles said.

Jimmie Giles, who turned 57 last month and who paid a price for 13 NFL seasons.

"My knees are shot and I need knee replacements," Giles said with a tiny smile. "I'm not going to do it until I can't walk anymore. My knees are degenerative, my neck is degenerative, got a bad chest, can't sleep unless I have my sleep apnea machine. Other than that, I'm good."

Vivian will be with him, like always. They were high school sweethearts in Mississippi. Jimmie gave up a scholarship to Michigan to become a walk-on at Alcorn State because that's where Vivian was walking on as a student. They've been married 35 years. Vivian and their three grown children, that's Jimmie's world.

"The constant for me has been my family, with a doubt, God and family," Giles said.

In only a few ways is today bittersweet. There are a few faces that won't be there.

There's Jimmie's late mother and father, Georgia and James.

"Mom and dad would be proud," Jimmie said.

And we can still see and hear Jimmie last July at the announcement of his induction, joking with the first Bucs Ring of Honor inductee. Jimmie Giles always said Lee Roy Selmon was the kind of man he wanted to be.

"He was my go-to guy," Jimmie said.

Also missing, apparently, will be former Bucs quarterback Doug Williams, who has had another falling out with the Bucs. Jimmie doesn't know why Doug can't see his way around that to be there for a dear friend. Jimmie has always been there for Doug.

"I am disappointed that he's not going to be here, to be honest with you," Jimmie said.

The other day, Jimmie Giles was talking about his great football moments. There was his four-touchdown game. There was celebrating in the rain and mud at Tampa Stadium the 1979 day the Bucs, once winless wonders, clinched the franchise's first playoff berth.

There was Jimmie's 81-yard touchdown grab over Chicago Bears safety Doug Plank, who earlier in the season had knocked Giles out with a helmet spear to the chest. That was Jimmie's answer. In the end zone, Jimmie just laid the ball down, baby soft.

There's another great Jimmie story, one with a fresh angle. When those same Bears had historically menacing defenses in the mid-'80s, they still respected Jimmie, though Giles does remember Bears linebacker Otis Wilson always yapping at him.

"Giles, you too old, man. Why don't you just retire?" Wilson would say.

In October, Giles and some other Bucs alums traveled to London for the Bucs-Bears game. There was a huge luncheon, and there were old Bucs and Bears, including Otis Wilson. Folks were getting up to talk about the 1985 Super Bowl Bears. Otis Wilson took to the microphone.

"You know, the toughest time we ever had is that guy right over there, Jimmie Giles," he said.

Wilson pointed. Everyone looked.

"There are 2,500 people there, the commissioner and all the folks sitting there, and Otis Wilson singles me out," Jimmie said. "He said this guy was the best tight end to ever play football. Man, tears just started coming out of my eyes."

Maybe there'll be a few more today.

"I don't know if you could say you deserved it, but you'd like to think and hope you earned it," Jimmie Giles said.

It was hard-earned Jimmie, hard-earned.

Enjoy your day. It's forever.

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