Lee Roy Selmon, a Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end who was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first-ever draft pick, died Sunday after suffering a stroke two days earlier, the team said.
The 56-year-old had been admitted to a Tampa, Florida, hospital after suffering the stroke Friday.
Selmon, a two-time national champion and three-time All-American at Oklahoma University, played nine seasons after the expansion Buccaneers made him the first overall pick in the 1976 draft. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1979, when the Bucs made it to the NFC championship game.
He still is the team’s all-time leader in sacks (78.5) and forced fumbles (28.5) and is the only Hall of Fame member to have played all of his seasons with Tampa Bay.
“He not only helped define the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but established himself as one of the best ever at the defensive end position,” Steve Perry, president of the Hall of Fame, said on the hall’s website.
The Glazer family, which has owned the Buccaneers since 1995, said in a statement Sunday that Selmon’s “standing as the first Buc in the Hall of Fame surely distinguishes him, but his stature off the field as the consummate gentleman put him in another stratosphere.”
The six-time Pro Bowler retired after the 1984 season and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1995, with an induction speech by his brother and Oklahoma and Tampa Bay teammate, Dewey Selmon.
Selmon became associate athletic director at the University of South Florida in the mid-1990s, and helped fund-raising and other efforts to establish a new football program for the school. The team began playing as a NCAA Division I-AA program in 1997, and it rose to Division I-A – now the Football Bowl Subdivision – in 2001.
Selmon was USF's athletic director from 2001 to 2004.
"We all loved him, and we're all deeply saddened," USF President Judy Genshaft said in a statement released by the school. "We're a better university because of Lee Roy Selmon. He was an incredible role model who cared about all of our student-athletes, no matter what sport. He built an incredible legacy and he will never be forgotten."
His jersey number, 63, is the only one that the Bucs have retired, and an expressway in Tampa was named after him in 1999, according to the NFL team.