Warren Sapp says football has taken him from a dirt road to a gold jacket

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

During his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Oakland Raiders, seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp spent considerable time trash-talking to his opponents. Since Sapp makes his post-career living talking about the NFL on television, it was a minor upset that his Hall of Fame induction speech, the second-to-last of the night, clocked in at just over 11 minutes.

During that time, Sapp thanks his family, his college coach Dennis Erickson, who plucked Sapp out of tiny Apopka, Florida to attend the University of Miami. Sapp also thanked his former Buccaneeres teammates Derrick Brooks and John Lynch, the big three in one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL history.

Sapp also thanks three specific head coaches during his NFL career.

The first was Tony Dungy, who provided a team that had 11 double-digit loss seasons with structure, a path and a vision for success. Second was Jon Gruden, whose high cost to acquire from the Oakland Raiders prompted Sapp to visit his office daily to make sure it was worth it. With the Buccaneers winning a Super Bowl under Gruden, clearly that was one of the best moves the Glazers have made. Finally was Art Shell, a Hall of Fame player who coached Sapp with the Raiders at the end of his career.

Sapp racked up accolades during his Hall of Fame career. He was a perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro selection, the 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was a member of the NFL's All-Decade team for both the 1990s and 2000s. During that time, however, Sapp says he never played to game to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

"I never played this game to get into the Hall of Fame," said Sapp. "I played this game to retire my mother, because my mother worked to the bone and I wasn't going to allow her, or myself, to be in that position again. I love this game. I love the passion of it, and I sit here with the greatest amongst the great, or as Michael Irvin said the other day, the Bible of football, because you can read, get inspiration, gain strength and look to tomorrow.

"This game is so great. There's nothing else I know and love. It's taken me from a dirt road to heights I never seen seen and now to a gold jacket. Oh my goodness."