In 1977 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected USC running Ricky Bell with the 1st pick overall.
Little did they know how great of a player he was gonna be. He was a workhorse for sure. He led college football as a junior at USC with 1,875-yards.
One of the main reasons the Buccaneers went from worst to first in 1979, was because of their great defense and Ricky running the ball.
Coach John McKay had a recipe for success, and our offense worked because of the threat that Ricky brought. Teams had to respect him, so it opened up the deep passing game.
Now, normally I will always say that in order for a player to get into the Ring of Honor that player should play here at least 8 seasons and be great.
Ricky played here for 5 seasons, rushing for just 3,057-yards, but he meant so much to this team and the franchise. He is my exception to my 8-year rule.
I do believe that if he hadn’t suffered from such a terrible disease that he would have been one of the all-time great running backs in the history of the NFL.
In 1981 minor injuries, due to the first stages of his health issues, caused him to see his playing time decrease significantly and he wasn’t happy with it.
The disease he had was dermatomyositis and polymyositis diseases that together affect the skin, the striated muscles, and various connective tissues in the body. The cause is unknown.
In 1981, he asked coach McKay if he could be traded and McKay sent him to San Diego. Still suffering from continual weight loss, aching muscles, and severe skin problems, Bell retired before the 1983 season.
In 1984 at the age of 29, Ricky Bell passed away. Coach McKay said of him, “Ricky Bell was one of the finest football players I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching. He was even a finer man; this is a great tragedy. My heart goes out to his family.”
A fine man he was. When he met Les Roth in 1979 at the Bucs practice field, Roth cut Bell in on his few of his fried chicken franchises; Popeyes. Popeyes Fried Chicken took off becoming very successful. The reason why I am bringing this up is that both Roth and Bell used to go to children’s hospitals and visit children dressed up as Popeye. Ricky Bell had a huge heart and even became close to a boy named Ryan Blankenship who was handicapped.
To the Bucs, this man meant so much to this franchise, during their early years, and he represented our franchise just as well off the field. Without Bell, we wouldn’t be seeing the success we had early on. So, get him into the Ring of Honor as fast as possible. A class act on and off the field.