Mason Foster was 13 years old and already a big football fan when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. He was about to enter high school, where he would emerge as a prep star on the gridiron, mostly playing linebacker.
As a nascent linebacker, it’s not surprising that the play he remembers most from that big game in January of 2003 is the one that caused Buccaneers radio man Gene Deckerhoff to exclaim, “There’s the dagger! The Bucs are going to win the Super Bowl!” With the Bucs holding on to a 34-21 lead with a little less than five minutes to play, linebacker Derrick Brooks intercepted a Rich Gannon pass and returned it 44 yards for the title-clinching score.
Yes, Foster, now a Buccaneers linebacker himself, remembers that play. Just not necessarily fondly.
See, Foster was a prep star in Seaside, part of Monterey County, which just happens to be located in Coastal California, a little South of the Bay area and north of San Diego, where Super Bowl XXXVII was played. He wasn’t exactly rooting for the pewter and red on that evening in early ’03.
“When I was a little kid, that was tough on me,” said Foster with a rueful smile. “I was a Raiders fan when they beat up on Rich Gannon and all the boys. That was a tough one. They had a great run, had a great team that year, and to get beat up like that – in San Diego – it was tough to watch that.”
Foster persevered through the whole game, though, even as the Buccaneers built a 34-3 lead midway through the third quarter. A blocked punt and a disputed deep ball from Gannon to Jerry Porter allowed the Raiders to mount something of a rally, but Brooks’ touchdown extinguished the last hope for Oakland faithful.
“The Derrick Brooks interception for a touchdown,” said Foster. “Rich Gannon – there was a lot of heat on him all day. But that was the big play I remember, Derrick Brooks scoring, and that pretty much sealed the whole entire game right there.”
While it wasn’t his fondest football memory growing up in Seaside, that Super Bowl victory for the Buccaneers is a hot topic once again because the 2002 team is gathering for its 10-year reunion this weekend. The celebration will include a halftime ceremony during the Buccaneers’ game against Philadelphia on Sunday. Given the opponent – Tampa Bay beat Philly to get into the Super Bowl – the expected large crowd and the emotions sparked by the reunion, there is sure to be a lively atmosphere at Raymond James Stadium for this game.
The 23-year-old Foster has had time to get over his disappointment from a decade ago, and as a Buccaneer, he can now appreciate the weekend’s celebration. As a Buccaneer linebacker, he obviously hopes to follow in Brooks’ footsteps and be a big part of bringing another championship to the Tampa Bay area.
“It’s great,” said Foster of the reunion. “There’s a great tradition down here, great fans. It’s going to be great to celebrate that. It’s great to be a Buc and we’ve got a great tradition down here.”
Foster might even get a chance to meet Brooks in person and…well, one expects all is forgiven by now!