Teammates insist the greatest player in Oklahoma football history was never knocked off his feet, but not even Lee Roy Selmon could conquer the massive stroke he suffered at home Friday.After spending two days in critical condition and with family members by his side, Selmon died Sunday in Tampa, Fla. He was 56. “It is with very heavy hearts that the Selmon family announces the passing of our beloved husband, father and brother, Lee Roy Selmon,” the Selmon family said in a statement. “Lee Roy passed away today surrounded by family and friends at St. Joseph's Hospital. “For all his accomplishments on and off the field, to us Lee Roy was the rock of our family. This has been a sudden and shocking event, and we are devastated by this unexpected loss. We deeply appreciate the prayers and support shown by family, friends, the football community and the public over the past two days.” With Lee Roy lined up alongside older brothers Lucious and Dewey, the Selmons comprised arguably the most dominant defensive line in the history of college football. Coaches and teammates claim they never saw Lee Roy knocked on his back side. “When you see him make plays on film, Lee Roy Selmon would make tackles and lay people down,” former OU coach Barry Switzer said. “Everybody else would have crumpled to the ground, and Lee Roy Selmon would still be standing up.” Former OU assistant Larry Lacewell recruited the Selmons out of Eufaula High School. “I've never seen him play bad my whole life,” Lacewell once said of Lee Roy. Ever seen him knocked off his feet? “That's the legend, and I can't go against it,” Lacewell said. “I've never heard a guy who's been with him, or coached against him, who didn't say he's the best they've seen. I mean everybody. It's incredible, but it's all true.” Lucious played two seasons at OU with Dewey and Lee Roy, who were in the same class despite being born 11 months apart. With a Selmon in the lineup, the Sooners had a combined record of 54-3-1. Lee Roy and Dewey went 43-2-1, winning back-to-back national titles in 1974-75, four Big Eight titles and going 38 consecutive games without a loss. Lee Roy won both the Lombardi and Outland trophies as the nation's outstanding collegiate lineman in 1975. Receiver Tinker Owens was Lee Roy's teammate for four seasons at OU and later played against him in the NFL. “I haven't seen anybody any better, even in pro football,” Owens said. Former Detroit Lions coach Monte Clark said Lee Roy was “a grown man at work among a bunch of boys.” The Selmons long have been considered the First Family of Oklahoma Football. “I'm still a little bit overwhelmed any time one of us are singled out,” Lee Roy said before being honored on Owen Field at halftime of the OU-South Florida game in 2002. “Any type of recognition is just a reflection of all those people we played with. I'm humbled by it.” Lee Roy was the first player taken in the 1976 NFL Draft and the first player chosen in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history. That same year, Tampa Bay selected Dewey with the last pick in the second round and the brothers played together five seasons with the Bucs. A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Lee Roy was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979. In 1995, Lee Roy became the first OU player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 1992. Dewey presented Lee Roy at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, where Lucious also was in attendance. “For 31 years, he was my celibate wife,” Dewey said that day of Lee Roy. “We went on dinner dates together. In fact, for our senior prom it was I who took him there ... I really feel with all of my heart that Lee Roy belongs here (in the Hall).” Some believe Selmon was the best defensive end to play the game at any level. “My firm belief is that if Lee Roy Selmon hadn't been such an extraordinarily decent man, he would have been the greatest defensive end who ever played the game,” said former Orlando Sentinel writer Jerry Greene, who covered every game Selmon played with the Bucs from 1976-84. “The only thing that kept him from clearly being the best is that he had nothing resembling a killer instinct. He did his job and he did it well, but he never took any enjoyment or got any extra thrill out of leaving a quarterback injured on the ground. He was a great football player but an even better human being.” While Switzer was coaching the Dallas Cowboys, Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long once told him: “Coach, I just wanted you to know I patterned my game after Lee Roy Selmon, He was the guy I marveled at, and I wanted my game to be as good as his.” Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times wrote of Selmon: “He is perhaps the most genuine, most dignified former star who ever walked. His nature is so placid, it amazes you he could conjure such a physical player from it.” Selmon was president of the University of South Florida Foundation Partnership for Athletics and had planned to attend USF's game at Notre Dame on Saturday. In tribute, South Florida players wore a decal of Selmon's retired uniform number with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 63) on the back of their helmets. USF wound up posting a 23-20 upset over the No. 16-ranked Fighting Irish. Selmon served as USF's athletic director from 2001-04. He resigned from that position and returned to a fundraising role because of high blood pressure caused by heart and stress-related problems, Dewey told The Tampa Tribune in 2004. Dewey also said their father, Lucious Sr., once had a stroke. Mike Baldwin contributed to this report.
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