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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs family turns out to celebrate Sapp

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Published:   |   Updated: August 4, 2013 at 01:20 AM

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CANTON, Ohio - From the chow line at old One Buc Place to the trainer's room at the team's plush new facility, Warren Sapp's football family turned out in force Saturday to honor one of their own.

A charter flight filled with more than 100 members of the organization and its business partners departed from Tampa in the morning and arrived hours before Sapp's emotional acceptance speech as he entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The group was escorted to a private room in the Hall, where Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer addressed the crowd before everyone departed for a private tour of the exhibits.

"There's a sense of pride today," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said. "I'm just so happy for everything he did for our franchise. You feel an overwhelming emotion when you see Warren with that gold jacket on. This is the ultimate individual achievement in our game and I look forward to being here many more times because we had an unbelievable group of players in Tampa.''

Former team physician Joseph Diaco showed up to support Sapp, along with Jose and Sandra Garciga, who provided the food for the Bucs for 19 years, including all nine of Sapp's seasons in Tampa.

Former teammates Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber arrived at the ceremony fashionably late after an afternoon round of golf with ex-Bucs coach Jon Gruden.

"I'm just soaking it all in,'' said Brooks, who entered the league along with Sapp as a first-round draft pick in 1995. "I see how the guys up on this stage appreciate the new inductees and it's wonderful to see. I sit here in awe to see guys I played against and guys I've been a fan of.''

Falcons president Rich McKay flew in to honor his first draft pick as Tampa Bay's general manager.

"First and foremost, I'm happy for Warren,'' McKay said. "For all of us who got to be part of the ride, there's a great sense of pride to see Warren honored tonight. It's good for the Buccaneer franchise and the fan base to relive those glory days. I don't think Warren will be the last one recognized by the Hall.''

Brooks and former coach Tony Dungy are eligible for the Hall's Class of 2014 and Lynch made the list of 25 semifinalists this year. Barber, who retired in May after 16 seasons with the Bucs, will be eligible for the Class of 2018.

"I had an opportunity to play with three or four Hall of Famers and that's rare,'' said former Bucs middle linebacker Shelton Quarles, now Tampa Bay's director of pro scouting. "Other guys play 15 years without being with one single Hall of Famer. Being here today for Warren, it makes me think that I had an opportunity to play with one of the best that ever laced them up.''

Sapp's induction will also serve as a reminder to current Buccaneers that it takes more than just physical skills to reach the top.

"Going into the Hall in your first year of eligibility is quite an accomplishment for Warren,'' Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "Early in his career, you saw the elite athlete. But you also saw a work ethic and a fierce enthusiasm. You have to love competition and you have to love the game. That's Warren Sapp.''

Sitting next to Bryan Glazer in the front row, surrounded by family, Sapp's mother couldn't wait for the festivities to begin.

"I'm going to have my head down, because if my son looks at me from up there, he's going to start crying,'' said Annie Roberts, who worked four jobs and raised six children in the small central Florida town of Plymouth. "Since I got here, it's been like riding a roller coaster. And I expect to be back next year, too. They might have to wheel me in here, but I'll be here for Derrick.''

Former Bucs safety Dexter Jackson, MVP of Tampa Bay's Super Bowl victory against Oakland, credited Sapp for raising his game.

"Guys like that were at a certain level and they spent their time trying to get everyone else to reach that level,'' Jackson said. "He made me better just trying to keep up with him on the practice field. Then it became a habit, with everyone trying to make a play and match Warren's intensity. If you were producing, you were allowed to say something to the man. If you weren't producing, keep your mouth shut.''

Kicker Martin Gramatica said there was no way he was going to miss Sapp's big day.

"Everybody who is here can say we have a little part of Warren going into the Hall of Fame because that's the way Warren wants it to be,'' Gramatica said. "He's never said it's all about Warren. With him, it's always about the team.

"For me, it's an honor being here to share this with him because I always felt Warren Sapp had my back, even when I was a rookie. What else can I say, he's one of the best teammates I've ever had.''

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7833

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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