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Tom McEwen

The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.

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NFL Cornerbacks Are Celebrating

Posted Jan 24, 2008 by Tom McEwen

Updated Jan 24, 2008 at 07:09 PM

After the Buccaneers of another day had pummeled the Chicago Bears, an outside offensive lineman confessed, ‘‘at the half, I told my coach my innermost secrets, including the fact that I never wanted to go down in a coal mine or a diving bell and now, I don’t want to go back out there and play the rest of the game against Lee Roy Selmon.’‘

Likely, around the NFL today the smaller defensive backs are saying the same first two negatives, and adding, ‘‘and I now I don’t have to go out there and play any more against Mike Alstott.’‘

They’ve seen enough of the bruising, 6-1, 250-pounder bearing down in them in the open field at full speed, knees pumping high, one arm with the ball the other ready to smack them somewhere his big old body didn’t crunch, to bowl them to the ground and run on, looking back maybe with his slight smile. Then, as he would, Alstott would come back to pick them up, if they needed it, wink, and say, maybe next time. 

Perhaps if they had known this young football toughie had grown up in the shadow of Joilet prison, where the Chicago ganglanders spent their later years, they may have slipped and fell before this big guy got there. But, now, they won’t have to worry about a somewhat smaller but toughie named Earnest Graham and whomever else the Bucs of today can find somewhere.

The terrific man and player Mike Alstott gave up a major part of his life today, football and the Bucs, and quit the game before he was hurt physically any more. Two neck injuries were two too many. So, he retired, taking with them the gratitude of the people here they so exuberantly gave most of the time, and a bit of the heart out of the Buccaneers.

In his so-long eulogy before a big house of media, on live television, and others at One Buc, he welled up several times, told us how hard it was for him to do this, to leave, but he assured us Tampa/St. Pete was his home now, for his Nicole and their three kids who live near our beaches, not a famous prison. He has a couple of restaurants with his good buddy, old center and now Buc radio host Dave Moore.

It has been clear right along that the Alstotts loved being in this place and playing football at Raymond James Stadium. It has been clear they are happy Floridians who go barefoot a lot, wear shorts all they can and love the lifestyle. Mike and Dave are first-rate fisherman — Dave even a professional guide, I think — having often fished with Capt. Scott Moore and me and Publix guru Barney Barnett, on the invitation of bakery king Phil Alessi. Alstott caught his biggest snook, until then, with us. The snook and Alstott are memorialized by photo enlargement on a wall in his house. So is mine. Both can fish effectively, judged Capt. Scott.

Don’t really have to dwell on his football playing and his results. They are on the books and in this Tribune today, provided by those who cover the Bucs more closely than I these days. But, I agree with you that they are dandy, his results, that he was good at what he does, a hard worker, willing for Coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden and all of those with whom he worked for the Bucs. He mentioned as many as he could remember in his goodbye speech, pausing to weep now and then as he recalled all his good times he shared with us. Why, he even thanked Jill Hobbs, a forever big-shot lady at Bucko Palace.

Others will detail all the good off-the-field deeds of Mike. Enough here to say he was always there, always came through. Always.

He also was always available to the media, always, in victory or defeat. That defeat part is not always easy, especially if the interviewed was a part of it. I mean, play enough games, play hard enough and you will be the part of a loss. Fumble. Fail to score. Missed block. Get intercepted. That line is long. One of the Bucs of another time yelled, to me, ‘‘I ain’t got nothing to say, Tom,’’ to which I responded, ‘‘I ain’t got nothing to ask you, pal.’’ Lee Roy Selmon used to say, ‘‘you know how I feel. It was a team win, or it was a team loss.’’ After a win, and an inquiry for comments, I used to tell new players, ‘‘now, I’ll be back when and if you lose, too, you know.’’ Former Bucs Tony Mayberry and Ian Beckles, and Selmon, of course, remembered that — as did Alstott.

It was difficult, but he was indeed available in victory or defeat.

Sorry ole Mike’s quitting, but relieved, too. His possible injury was a concern, though look at this handsome athlete and he looks like he could play on and on and on. But ... we got that but.

Fishing time, Mike.

Reader Comments

Por (Earl C Henning) on February 01, 2008 (Suggest removal)

We will never forget mike. every time i hear a train i will think of one of the NFL’S best.

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