The Buccaneers will induct stalwart left tackle Paul Gruber into their Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. When Gruber takes to the podium on the field to accept the honor during a halftime ceremony, he will be flanked by the teammates who helped create his most meaningful NFL season.
After seeking Gruber’s input, the Buccaneers chose to reunite and recognize the 1997 Tampa Bay team that broke a 15-year playoff drought and began a franchise turnaround that would eventually result in the Super Bowl XXXVII championship. From Derrick Brooks to Mike Alstott to Shelton Quarles to Donnie Abraham, those ’97 Bucs will be on hand Sunday to share in Gruber’s big day and bask in the applause of an appreciate Raymond James Stadium crowd.
Of course, NFL halftimes are deceivingly quick, so there won’t be a lot of time for reminiscing or catching up during Gruber’s induction ceremony. Fortunately, the same several dozen men and their guests gathered at One Buccaneer Place on Saturday night to do just that.
The Buccaneers elected to throw a party for all of their returning ’97 alumni, treating the former players to an extensive tour of the team’s new facility and a dinner filled with camaraderie and the trading of favorite memories. Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer, who like Gruber considers the 1997 season one of his favorites, addressed the assembled team and assured them of their importance in franchise annals.
“Many of you would play on the 1999 team that nearly made it to the Super Bowl, and some were also key members of the 2002 team that finally won the Lombardi Trophy,” Glazer told the former Buc standouts. “But it started with this team. I can tell you that right now, within the walls of the new One Buc Place, it is that 1997 spirit we are trying to capture again. We are working to build another team just like that one, a team that can establish a culture of winning and set the foundation for great things. We want it to be 1997 all over again, just like it is tonight in this room. Let me say thank you to each and every one of you for the incredibly important role you played in making this franchise what it is today.”