Lee Roy Selmon, the Hall of Fame defensive end who became a cornerstone of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their first decade in the National Football League and remained a revered figure in Tampa, Fla., died there Sunday. He was 56.
The cause was a stroke he had Friday, the Buccaneers said.
Selmon, who teamed with his brother Dewey on national championship teams at the University of Oklahomain 1974 and 1975, was selected by the expansion Buccaneers as the first pick in the 1976 N.F.L. draft. Dewey was drafted by them in the second round.
Lee Roy Selmon won the Outland and Lombardi Trophies as college football’s top lineman as a senior, but his Tampa Bay team went 0-14 in his rookie season and 0-26 before its first victory.
Coach John McKay nevertheless found a bright side. “Whenever I want to feel good, I think about Lee Roy Selmon,” The Tampa Tribune quoted him once saying.
Better things were ahead. Selmon helped take the Buccaneers to the National Football Conference championship game for the 1979 season and then to two postseason appearances in the 1980s.
He was a Pro Bowl selection six consecutive times, and he was named the league’s defensive player of the year in 1979. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995 and is the only player in the Hall who spent all or most of his career as a Buccaneer.
Selmon made Tampa his home, became a bank executive there and was the athletic director at the University of South Florida in Tampa from 2001 to 2004. He also opened a chain of sports bar-restaurants.
At 6 feet 3 inches and 256 pounds, Selmon was a menacing presence on the football field, with 78 ½ career sacks.
In September 1991, Sports Illustrated asked the longtime N.F.L. quarterback Steve DeBerg to recall the 10 hardest hits he had taken. One of the games he cited was from 1979, when he was with the San Francisco 49ers.
“Lee Roy squared up on me,” DeBerg said. “The first thing that hit the ground was the back of my head. I was blind in my left eye for more than a half-hour — and I didn’t even know it. I went to the team doctor and he held up two fingers. I couldn’t see the left sides of the fingers — the side Selmon had come from.”
But Selmon also engaged in many charitable activities in his retirement years and was admired by Tampa residents as an accessible and gentlemanly person.
Selmon was born on Oct. 20, 1954, in Eufaula, Okla., the youngest of nine children, and was raised there on a farm.
Three Selmon brothers were all-American defensive players at Oklahoma. Lee Roy, Dewey and Lucious were teammates in 1973, and then Lee Roy and Dewey played on the Sooners’ No. 1-ranked teams of 1974 and 1975. Lee Roy was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
Lee Roy, a defensive tackle in his rookie year and then a right defensive end, was a teammate of Dewey’s with Tampa Bay from 1976 to 1980. A back injury that forced Lee Roy to miss the 1985 season ended his career.
In addition to his brothers Dewey and Lucious, Selmon’s survivors include his wife, Claybra; a daughter, Brandy; and their sons, Lee Roy Jr. and Christopher.
Tampa’s Crosstown Expressway was renamed the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in 1996.
As Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons’ president and chief executive and the son of John McKay, told The St. Petersburg Times on Selmon’s death: “He didn’t play at Miami or Florida. He was from Oklahoma and he came to Tampa and played nine years and they named an expressway after him. That’s all you need to know about Lee Roy Selmon.”