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Selmon, Lee Roy

SELMON, Lee Roy

(b. 20 October 1954 in Eufaula, Oklahoma), professional football player who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

Selmon was the youngest of nine children born to Lucious and Jessie Selmon. His father was a farmer who worked a forty-acre plot ten miles south of Eufaula, and his mother was a homemaker. Selmon grew up on the farm and went to grade school in Eufaula. In 1967, when he was in the eighth grade, Selmon tried out for the junior-high football team and, with his advanced size and weight, easily made the team. Selmon's brother Dewey, who was eleven months older and in the same grade, joined his brother on the team.

When the two brothers reached the ninth grade, they both stood over six feet tall and weighed 230 pounds. On offense, the brothers were running backs because their size made it difficult for opposing teams to tackle them, and on defense they played linebacker. In his senior year Selmon averaged sixteen yards per carry for the Eufaula Ironheads. The brothers also excelled academically and were selected for membership in the National Honor Society in 1971, the year they graduated from high school.

The Selmon brothers were recruited by the University of Oklahoma in Norman to play football. Convincing them to play at Oklahoma was not difficult because their older brother Lucious was a member of the Sooners' offensive squad. In the fall of 1971, when Selmon entered the university as a special education major, he was six feet, two inches tall and weighed 256 pounds. He fulfilled the requirements for defensive tackle, while Dewey played middle guard.

In 1974 Selmon's outstanding defensive play, which included eighteen tackles for lost yardage, landed him an All-America team selection and led to a national championship win for the Sooners. The following year the Sooners repeated their accomplishment as national champions, and Selmon was again honored with an All-America selection, as was his brother Dewey. Honors for Selmon's senior season continued when he was awarded the Outland and Lombardi Trophies for outstanding play as a lineman. In his senior year Selmon posted 132 tackles, the most for his college career; he finished college play with a career total of 324 tackles.

Selmon's accomplishments on the field were well known, but he also excelled in the classroom. In 1975, his senior year at the University of Oklahoma, he was named as an Academic All-American, an honor also achieved by Dewey. He earned a B.A. degree in special education upon graduation in 1975.

It was no surprise that Selmon was the first college player selected in the 1976 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a new National Football League (NFL) team in Florida. The Buccaneers also drafted Dewey, and the brothers played together on the team through 1980. Selmon played defensive end and Dewey played middle guard. Selmon displayed outstanding quickness for his size and defended the pass or run equally well. He consistently led his team in the number of sacks per season. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers lost all of their games in the team's inaugural season, and at the end of the season Selmon injured his leg. Before the start of the 1977 season he married Claybra Fields on 18 June 1977; the couple later had three children.

The Buccaneers' first franchise win came on 11 December 1977, when they defeated the New Orleans Saints. In that game Selmon recovered a fumble and posted twelve tackles, including three quarterback sacks. He finished the season with nineteen sacks, which earned him All-Conference honors. The 1978 season was a carbon copy for the Buccaneers and for Selmon. The Buccaneers won few games, but Selmon's performance again earned him All-Conference honors.

In 1979 Selmon and the Buccaneers had a breakthrough season. Selmon started the season by scoring his first defensive touchdown off a fumble recovery. The Buccaneers won ten games and entered the National Football Conference (NFC) divisional play-offs, but lost the championship game to the Los Angeles Raiders. Selmon posted 117 tackles and eleven sacks for the season, which earned him All-Pro honors, an honor he was granted every year through 1984. The Associated Press named him the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and the Sporting News recognized him as the NFL Defensive Most Valuable Player for 1979.

In the 1980–1981 season the Buccaneers won only five games, but Selmon excelled on the field by leading the team in number of sacks. In 1980 he was voted by the NFL Players Association as both the NFC and NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year. He was the NFC Defensive Lineman of the Year again in 1981, and his performance on the field led the Buccaneers to the NFC divisional play-offs, where they were defeated by the Dallas Cowboys. From 1982 to 1985 Selmon spent the remainder of his professional playing years with the Buccaneers. A back injury forced him to miss the entire 1985 season, and he retired from the sport at the close of the season. In 1988 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and in 1995 he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Selmon was prepared for retirement. During the off-season months, beginning in 1978, he had worked for the First National Bank of Miami as a marketing, promotion, and commercial credit executive. After his 1985 retirement from playing football he chaired the United Negro College Fund Sports Committee and supported the charitable efforts of the Ronald McDonald House and Special Olympics. In 1993 he accepted a position as the associate athletic director at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he oversaw the department's marketing and corporate partnerships. In March 2001 he was named the director of intercollegiate athletics at the university.

Selmon, known as a premier defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a feared opponent because of his quickness. He ended his professional career with a total of 78.5 sacks, 380 quarterback pressures, 28.5 forced fumbles, and 10 fumble recoveries. His unfortunate 1985 back injury brought a premature close to a professional career that no doubt would have brought more team victories to the Buccaneers as well as recognition to Selmon.

Don Pierson, Lee Roy Selmon: The Giant from Oklahoma (1982), covers Selmon's collegiate and professional career through 1982. Selmon's statistics as a player at the University of Oklahoma are in Cedric Jones and Jerald Moore, 1995 Oklahoma University Football Media Guide (1995). Selmon's statistics as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer are in Matthew Silverman, ed., Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the NFL (1999). An article in JET (11 June 2001) discusses Selmon's appointment as the athletic director at the University of South Florida.

Jon E. Taylor

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