Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
It's official: Warren Sapp is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, an honor reserved for few, but certainly deserved by Sapp.
Warren Sapp has entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the first Buccaneer from the glory days, and the second 'real' Buccaneer since the late, great Lee Roy Selmon. Sapp was elected to the Hall of Fame along with Bill Parcells, Jonathan Ogden, Cris Carter and Larry Allen. Curley Culp and Dave Robinson will join them as senior inductees. This group of football legends will be enshrined on Saturday, August 3 ahead of the annual Hall of Fame game on August 4. Surprisingly, Michael Strahan was snubbed.
Sapp's credentials are undeniable. With 96.5 career sacks, 7 Pro Bowl selections, 4 first-team All-Pro selections, two second-team All-Pro selections, one NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and an appearance on both the 1990s and the 2000s All-Decade teams. Those accolades are incredible, but they may still understate his importance. He managed a ridiculous 16.5 sacks as a defensive tackle in 2000, but was an impact player even in those season when he didn't reach double-digit sacks.
Sapp was the motor and arguably the most important player in the Bucs' renowned Tampa 2 defense, and his biggest achievement has to be not his 1999 season, but the 2002 season -- when the Bucs won their first and (so far) only Super Bowl. Sapp was a crucial player in turning one of the NFL's worst franchises into a champion.
Despite all of that, there was still a bit of doubt about Sapp's candidacy. He faced strong competition this year, and wasn't known for his courteous manners with journalists, to put it lightly. Sapp was a larger-than-life figure for the Bucs, both on and off the field. It's good to see that the voters did not let that stand in the way of Sapp's achievements, and gave him his dues.
Over the coming years, we're likely to see at least one more Buccaneers enter the Hall of Fame. Derrick Brooks will be eligible next year, while John Lynch was eligible this year but did not make it to the list of finalists. But until that happens, Sapp will keep Lee Roy Selmon company in the Hall of Fame.