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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Smith adds former Bucs LB Nickerson to staff

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Published:   |   Updated: January 7, 2014 at 10:38 PM

TAMPA - Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith hinted during his introductory press conference Monday that he might want to have some former Bucs standouts on his coaching staff. Apparently he will.

Smith has hired former Bucs linebacker Hardy Nickerson to be his linebackers coach, a league source said Tuesday.

Nickerson, 48, was a five-time Pro Bowler who played in the NFL from 1987-2002. He spent seven of those seasons (1993-99) playing for the Bucs and four for Smith, who came to the NFL as Tampa Bay’s linebackers coach in 1996.

This will not be the first time Nickerson has worked for Smith as a coach. He was also a member of Smith’s staff in Chicago in 2007, the year after Smith began his tenure as Bears head coach that ended in 2012.

“As I’m putting our coaching staff together, it would be great to get an old Buccaneer back on our staff,’’ Smith said following his introduction as the 10th head coach in Bucs history Monday. “In fact, one thing I’m going to do is reach out to all of our former Buccaneers.

“They will always be welcome here. We want them around and we want our current players to feel that pressure of how they’re supposed to perform each week. Some places don’t have the tradition we have and we’re definitely going to draw on that as much as we can.”

Nickerson played an integral role on the teams that finally produced a winning tradition and culture in Tampa. He was a mentor for several of the team’s most notable players such as 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate Derrick Brooks.

A University of California product, Nickerson came to the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1987 and played his first six seasons with the Steelers.

His career went to another level a year later when he moved to Tampa and became the middle linebacker in the Bucs’ 4-3 scheme, earning the first of his five Pro Bowl berths.

Nickerson returned to the Pro Bowl again in 1996, and with Smith as his position coach and Tony Dungy as his head coach went to the Pro Bowl each of the next four years before being released by the Bucs following the 1999 season.

Nickerson played the 2000 and 2001 seasons in Jacksonville, then finished his playing career with the Green Bay Packers in 2002. He later became an analyst on Bucs radio broadcasts for the 2007 season.

In 2010, Nickerson was name the head football coach at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif. The Dragons won two league titles during his tenure at O’Dowd High, which ended when Nickerson stepped down last Nov. 18.

rcummings@tampatrib.com

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