“Hardy! Hardy! Hardy!”
Yes, Hardy Nickerson came here before, both Dungy and Kiffin, but you cannot overlook his part in turning the Buccaneers around in the early ’90s and paving the way for the team’s defensive rise.
Hardware showed he had the goods.
Hardy “Hardware” Nickerson arrived in Tampa as a seasoned veteran of the NFL. Following his 1 interception, 9.5 sack, 4 fumbles recovered, and 436 combined tackles, 6-season-stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his arrival in Tampa announced his appearance to the scene.
In 1993, his first season with the Buccaneers, Hardware showed he had the goods. He recorded, off the official books, a league-leading 214 combined tackles, with 124 of them solo; sadly, tackles would not become an official stat until 2001. He earned a Pro Bowl selection, which at the time; made him just the 4th time a Tampa Bay defender voted to the Pro Bowl. (Dave Pear 1978, Lee Roy Selmon 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, Dave Lewis 1980). He also earned an All-Pro honor that same year, which was just the second time a Bucs player was selected as an All-Pro since the team’s inception (Lee Roy Selmon 1979). Nickerson would go on to 4 more Pro Bowls in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999 as well as receiving 3 more All-Pro honors in 1996, 1997, and 1999.
Ring of Honor?
When fans talk about past players who need to be placed into the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor, Hardy Nickerson’s name is left out of the discussion all too often. During his 7-year stint with the Buccaneers, he oversaw the Buccaneers’ defensive rise to greatness. He recorded 7 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles, 9 fumbles recovered, 603 solo tackles, 1,208 combined tackles, 9 sacks, 31 passes defended, in 104 games in which he started in all. He helped guide the Buccaneers’ defense to their first NFC Championship since 1979 during his final season with the team in 1999.
Hardy Nickerson not only changed the culture in Tampa, but he also set the standard of what a player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be.
Nickerson was not just a great player for the Buccaneers; he was the well-respected leader of the defense. He was aggressive, savvy, and known for laying the wood on anyone who had the football. Hardy Nickerson would take young players, like John Lynch, who played the linebacker position, when he first got to Tampa back in 1993, and help mold them into the star players they later became. When Warren Sapp entered the league in 1995, Nickerson made sure that he was Sapp’s hotel roommate and took him under his wing. He also helped lay the foundations for the player Derrick Brooks would become.
Hardy Nickerson not only changed the culture in Tampa, but he also set the standard of what a player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be. As a matter of fact, he would not accept anything less out of his teammates. When it is all said and done, Hardy Nickerson is easily our #1 pick to replace Jon Gruden’s name in Raymond James Stadium.