On October 19, I had the pleasure of attending the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game when they hosted the Seattle Seahawks. Although the Bucs did pull off an easy win, that certainly wasn’t the story of the day in the Tampa area.
Actually, for many area residents, the story of the day was game 7 of the American League Championship Series, because the worst-to-first Tampa Bay Rays were headed for their first World Series after a dramatic win over the reigning kings of Boston.
But many who attended the Bucs game that day were there for more than just a Sunday full of hard hits and touchdowns (although we were definitely treated to a lot of both during the game!)
When the starting lineups were announced prior to kickoff, no cheers were louder than those heard for local legend, fullback Mike “A-Train” Alstott, as he was named among the group of starters he had played with for years and alongside players who have since joined his former team. During halftime, the Bucs held a retirement ceremony for Alstott.
The 6-time Pro Bowler and member of the Super Bowl XXXVII Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers had been ‘retired’ for quite a while, but fans finally got their chance to cheer on the A-Train one last time as they listened to him give an emotional goodbye speech and presented him with two jerseys: the jersey he wore in his final NFL game and the Creamsicle-colored orange jersey worn in his first game as a rookie… complete with the misspelled name ‘Alsott’ on back.
Major celebrities were broadcast on the big screens throughout the game giving final ‘shout outs’ to Alstott, the man and the player. Teammates including Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks took turns telling stories about the days of the A-Train, and names as diverse as Alex Trebek, Dr. Phil, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Florida Governor Charlie Crist commented on the amazing career of a powerhouse whose career was cut short by a second neck injury.
For Bucs fans, the name Mike Alstott is as synonymous with Tampa Bay and the Buccaneers as the cannons, the ship, and the pirate flag centered on the field at Raymond James Stadium. Although the story hardly touched the headlines the next morning due to the Rays’ win over the Red Sox, for the thousands in the stadium that Sunday night, all cheers belonged to one man.
The train whistle has stopped and the sound of Gene Deckerhoff’s “A-Train, up the middle… TOUCHDOWN” is only a memory. But for dedicated Bucs fans, the A-Train’s legacy lives on.
In 2007, The Mike Alstott Family Foundation formed to help raise money for children and families facing diversity. The legacy will continue in many ways.