McKay's day in Tampa Bay
I had the honor of being involved in a small way with the recent induction of John McKay to the Buccaneers Ring of Honor. On Sunday, December 5 “McKay’s Men” was available for purchase in Raymond James Stadium during the Bucs-Falcons Throwback Game. While a planned-for book signing did not materialize, the events of that sun-drenched Sunday were picture perfect (with the exception of the final score of course!).
In addition to the book residing in souvenir kiosks throughout the facility, the Buccaneers also invited me to attend the game and tour One Buccaneer Place. It was a pleasure to be there, more so because my young nephew, William, was also able to attend the game.
However, the larger pleasure was to see a man that I have come to respect professionally over the past seven years receive recognition for his contributions to the team. John McKay, the first coach of the Buccaneers, has now been given his just due.
Seven years ago when I first started the research on “McKay’s Men,” I tended to focus more on the games and the stories of the 26-game losing streak, the player acquisitions and the culture of 1970’s Tampa. However, throughout all of my reading it occurred to me that John McKay was more than just a football coach. He was the face of the Buccaneer franchise. It was next to impossible to not find a quote, quip or story about the head coach when perusing back issues of the Tampa Bay papers.
Lost in the historic losing steak was the simple fact that John McKay built a solid NFL contender out of an expansion team faster than any other coach in NFL history at the time. And he did it in his own unique way.
As a nod toward McKay’s unorthodox methods, the Buccaneers distributed “floppy” golf hats to all in attendance. Many of you may know that the golf hat was McKay’s sartorial signature, a more informal choice than Tom Landry’s fedora or the ubiquitous baseball caps and visors worn by coaches of that time period.
Seeing 50,000 plus floppy hats in the stands was a treat and I will admit it brought a lump to my throat. The NFL today needs more floppy hats. The league also darn sure needs more coaches like McKay, men who knew they were being paid for teaching a boy’s game to men and acted accordingly.
Long after copies of “McKay’s Men” have been heaped into recycle bins and landfills, the name McKay will still be held in esteem within Raymond James Stadium and in the halls of the new One Buccaneer Place.
That I played a role, albeit one of an insignificant nature, in this recognition will be one of the grandest endeavors I have been a part of.
Thanks to Debbie Jacobs at Centerplate for working with me on the final points of the deal that put “McKay’s Men” in Raymond James Stadium.
Thanks to Christy Schnell of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for taking time out of her workday to give me a personal tour of One Buc. Anyone who can handle me solo in a football facility for an hour is by far a saint!
Thanks, of course, to Paul Stewart. Paul has long provided me a forum to bang the drum for not just John McKay, but for so many of the early Buccaneer players who for far too long had their careers and contributions overlooked.
And thanks to all of you who have supported me by reading my sporadic columns. It means a lot when I read that many of you learn something more about the team from my work. Now, let’s go Bucs!