Many young Tampa Bay fans might be scratching their heads when halftime comes around this Sunday.
There won't be any creamsicle jerseys or any white-and-orange pom poms. Bucco Bruce won't be in attendance and the hits of the '70s and '80s won't be blaring at Raymond James Stadium.
But, the pewter-and-red Buccaneer flag we've come to know and love will be flying high.
The Ring of Honor will be calling on a new inductee this Sunday, when the young Bucs go head to head with the Kansas City Chiefs. The stands might be mixed with some jerseys of old, but the players will don their uniforms of the modern day.
Paul Gruber, former left tackle and fourth overall pick in the 1988 draft, will have his name called to represent the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He will join the likes of the late and great Lee Roy Selmon, head coach John McKay and tight end Jimmy Giles.
Many found it a surprise when the public relations staff relayed to the media that Gruber would be the next Ring of Honor member. Even the former left tackle was surprised.
Gruber was part of a ball club that ended a bad run of 14 losing seasons. He wore the pastel orange and white. He was a part of the change that saw former head coach Tony Dungy make something out of nothing. He helped bridge the Bucs from orange to red, playing in 183 straight games—or 4,850 consecutive snaps protecting his quarterbacks.
No matter the situation—aside from a holdout due to contract talks in 1993—Gruber showed up to work, kept his head low and played a great game. He was humble and instilled doubt as well as fear into any defensive lineman that came his way.
Tony Dungy knew his players well and respected those who played with heart and humility.
"For a coach to be able to say, 'Just look over at his locker and do what he does and you're going to be fine,' is huge," said the former ball coach.
Even if fans don't remember his play, they will surely understand Gruber's character this Sunday.
He was a leader of a turnaround that fans never expected, one that pushed the Bucs into the playoffs. It was 1997, the last season in the ol' "Sombrero", which culminated with a divisional playoff victory against the Detroit Lions.
At left tackle, Gruber showed up, practiced hard and played even harder. Throwback game or no throwback game, Gruber and the '97 Bucs will always be remembered and loved.
Future Hall of Famer and former Buc safety John Lynch once said, "Groobs' was one of those guys who always just kept doing his job and doing what he needed to do to get ready for Sundays."
Let's just hope Gruber can inspire these Buccaneers to keep doing their job. They've had some close losses, seeming to be right on the edge of pulling out a win. But with hard work and some elbow grease, a turnaround is just around corner.
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