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Mike Alstott: A Mack Truck on Cleats

Mike Alstott was one of the most bruising backs in NFL history

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In a recent poll on this site, the majority of you voted Mike Alstott as the best running back in Buccaneers history. He beat out Warrick Dunn by nearly 300 votes. You clearly loved the A-Train.

And for good reason. He was quite possibly the most consistent, and toughest back in the franchises' 39 years history. The way he barreled through defenses had not quite been seen before, nor since. Of course, you remember the game against the Cleveland Browns in 2002 where it seemed like he wouldn't go down.

For like ever.

One of Mike Alstott's finest performances came against Cleveland in 2002. (Courtesy of

One of Mike Alstott's finest moments came against Cleveland in 2002. (Courtesy of Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In the words of the immortal Chris Berman, Alstott was rumblin', stumbin', bumblin' and no one could stop him. He rushed for 121 yards that day, en route to a 17-3 victory for the Buccaneers.

But that was just Alstott. At 6'1 and 248 pounds, he was blue collar all the way. Facing Mike Alstott was like a bunny going against a Mack truck. You can hope that the truck doesn't run you over, but good luck with that. Alstott used his bruising style of play for over 5,000 yards and 58 touchdowns in his career, which is outstanding for a fullback.

Buccaneers owner Bryan Glazer told USA Today in 2008 that Alstott was always Mr. Dependable.

"If you needed a yard, Mike would get you two," said Glazer. "If you needed to grind out the game at the end, Mike was the man for you."

Alstott first garnered recognition at Purdue, where he became the all-time rusher in school history. His 1994 and 1995 seasons were truly magnificent, as he smashed Big Ten opponents on the way to 1,188 yards in '94 and 1,436 yards in '95. His play earned him All-Big Ten honors in 1995, and a Gannett News All-American award that same year.

Mike Alstott's Career at Purdue
Year Attempts Rushing Yards AVG Rushing TD's Receiving Yards Receiving TD's
1992 46 195 4.2 2 208 1
1993 153 816 5.3 12 407 2
1994 202 1,188 5.9 14 298 0
1995 243 1,436 5.9 11 162 0
644 3,635 5.6 39 1,075 3

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that for years was deficient offensively and defensively, was in dire need of a culture change. They brought Rich McKay in as GM in 1993. Then the franchise drafted Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in the 1995 NFL Draft, and hired Tony Dungy as coach the next year.

The pieces were being put into place for success.

Tampa Bay, who realized Alstott could really help them as a power fullback, selected him in the second round of the 1995 draft. His first year with the Bucs, he did okay, nabbing 377 yards with 3 touchdowns. In 1996, Alstott's stock rose considerably, getting 665 yards with 7 TD's. The sky was the limit for the bruiser out of Purdue.

From 1997 to 2002, no one could stop Mike Alstott. (

From 1997 to 2002, no one could stop Mike Alstott. (Courtesy of Eliot Schecter/Allsport)

Alstott's tough, punishing style of play, mixed in the speediness of Warrick Dunn, the surprising quarterback play of Trent Dilfer and the domination of the Tampa 2 defense earned the Buccaneers a 10-6 record and their first trip to the playoffs since 1982. Alstott helped the Bucs beat Detroit in the opening round of the playoffs, but succumbed to Green Bay in the next round.

Despite the loss, the Buccaneers had become a playoff team, and Alstott was a star. He made the Pro Bowl that year, and appeared on the cover of NFL Xtreme on Playstation.

In 1998, Alstott had another banner year for the Bucs, getting 846 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns, making the Pro Bowl once again. The fullback position, usually suited for blocking, was used by Tampa as a way to grab more yardage and touchdowns, and Mike Alstott played that role beautifully.

In 1999, Alstott kept on chugging, getting 949 yards with 7 scores as Tampa Bay won the NFC Central for the first time since 1981. Despite running for 63 yards and a touchdown in 2 playoff games, Alstott couldn't help the Buccaneers beat the St. Louis Rams in the NFC Championship Game, losing 11-6.

Trent Dilfer, Alstott's teammate from 1995-1999, explained to what Mike Alstott meant to this franchise.

"He was a three-tier fullback," Dilfer said. "Mike was obviously a great ballcarrier. He could have played solely tailback, and did play tailback for many games. He was a very good fullback from a lead-blocking standpoint. Then he was one of the best natural receiving backs in all of football. We weren’t a very talented football team in those days, but if it wasn’t for him and his versatility – he really started and ended what we were offensively. He was just one of the great football players that I’ve been fortunate to play with throughout my career."

From 2000-2002, Alstott saw a dip in his rushing yardage, but not his touchdown production. In 2000, despite missing 3 games with a torn ligament, still was able to get 5 TD's and make the Pro Bowl. Ditto for 2001, where he got 10 TD's and earned another Pro Bowl berth. In 2002, he totaled 548 yards with 5 scores. Despite the decrease in offensive yardage, Alstott and the Bucs experienced the true taste of victory.

A win in Super Bowl XXXVII over the Oakland Raiders.

Alstott contributed 15 yards and a TD that day, but the real story was how the Buccaneers were able to destroy the Raiders whole game plan. Clearly, Oakland had not changed the plays since Jon Gruden was traded to the Buccaneers, and pretty much got beat with their old coaches' playbook, 48-21.

Mike Alstott finally won the trophy he so richly deserved.

Mike Alstott's TD was key in the Buccaneers' Super Bowl win over the Oakland Raiders. (Courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images)

Mike Alstott's TD was key in the Buccaneers' Super Bowl win over the Oakland Raiders. (Courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images)

After the 2002 season, the Buccaneers experienced a Super Bowl hangover, finishing 7-9 in 2003 and 5-11 in 2004. Alstott's yardage dipped again as well, as he missed 12 games in  2003 with a neck injury. In 2004, Alstott returned to play 14 games, getting 230 yards rushing with 2 TD's. However, his sprained his MCL in a game against the Chicago Bears, and missed the rest of the season.

In 2005 and 2006, Alstott produced little yardage, but still scored touchdowns, netting 6 in '05 and 3 in '06. After suffering another neck injury and spending the entire 2007 season on injured reserve, Alstott decided to hang it up in 2008.

In 2015, the Buccaneers decided to honor their former fullback with a high honor that very few members of the franchise have been presented with.

The Bucs Ring of Honor.

An honor well deserved,

No matter how well the quarterback play was going, or if the other running backs or receivers were producing, Mike Alstott was always doing his job, smashing his way into the end zone, and knocking over defensive linemen and linebackers in his way.

He was a Mack truck on cleats.