LUTZ, Fla. — Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon was remembered Friday as a ferocious football player whose gentleness and commitment to helping people off the field defined him as a man.
The 1979 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and former University of South Florida athletic director died last Sunday, two days after suffering a stroke at his home. He was 56.
“He was a man of great dignity, great humility, great humanity, and we will miss him,” USF president Judy Genshaft told hundreds of friends, family and former teammates during a three-hour service at Idlewild Baptist Church. “He set the standard, and now it is our turn to carry it forward.”
Selmon was the No. 1 pick in the 1976 draft, the first-ever player selected by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers following a standout college career at Oklahoma, where he and older brother, Dewey, helped the Sooners win national championships in 1974 and 1975.
A second funeral will be held Saturday in Oklahoma City, near the small town of Eufaula, where Selmon was born.
“You grew to love him. Please know that he loved you just as much,” Dewey, a second-round draft pick of the Bucs during the team's inaugural year, told a crowd that included the current roster of the Buccaneers, former Bucs Doug Williams, Derrick Brooks, Jimmie Giles, Hugh Green and Warrick Dunn, as well as the entire USF football squad in jerseys. “The relationship is one that would never be tarnished or broken. The sorrow we might feel today will not take that away.”
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, one-time Bucs assistant and Detroit Lions head coach Wayne Fontes and former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo also attended the service. Featured speakers included former Oklahoma and NFL running back Joe Washington and Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer, who called Selmon a “gentle giant” and “Tampa Bay treasure.”
Genshaft received a standing ovation when she announced the USF board of trustees had voted unanimously to rename the school's athletic building the Lee Roy Selmon Athletic Center.
As athletic director, Selmon led the effort to establish USF's football program from scratch in the mid-1990's, raising most of the money for startup costs, hiring a coach and later spearheading the Bulls' entry into the Big East Conference.